The architectural competition for the Helsinki Central Library, held in 2012–13, received 544 entries from around the world. The winning entry “Käännös” [swerve] was by ALA Architects.
In terms of structural engineering, this sculptural library is one of the most demanding projects carried out in Finland. The whole building is supported by a huge steel arch structure often used in bridges, which enables large open spaces without bearing walls.
According to the architects:
“The design grows from the dynamic between the site and the goals of the library program. The key concept is the interplay between the building’s three individual floors.
The public plaza in front of the building will continue inside, merging with a catalogue of meeting and experience features. The ground floor will be a robust, busy and frequently updated space suitable for quick visits and walkthroughs. The active, zero-threshold public spaces will be visible, attractive, understandable and welcoming to all visitors.
The traditional, serene library atmosphere can be found on the top floor. This will be a calm and contemplative area floating above the busy central Helsinki. It will offer unobstructed, majestic views to the surrounding park and cityscape.
These two contrasting spaces that perfectly complement each other are created by an arching wooden volume. The spaces inside the volume will be enclosed and more intimate. The wooden volume is stretched vertically to create connections to the open main floors below and above.”
The library will be opened to the public in December 2018.