Helsinki Central Library

The design proposal for the new Central Library of Helsinki is primarily focused on how people can gather, socialize, learn & read, enjoy culture or just relax, in a single building; in other words: what does it take to make a public building that works both as an ‘urban hub, or urban attractor’ full of social exchange, while providing a specific and more intimate environment for study and contemplation at the same time? This double role of the library building is what has guided the design solutions in every aspect, from its urban form to its functional layout, as well as in its spatial and structural physicality.

First, the central library aspires to become hub for knowledge and inspiration and a significant public place within Helsinki. To achieve this the building is conceived as an urban container that can stage a variety of collective activities and contribute in defining new ones; Its inverted skyline is an interface for public life towards the city and a provider of  articulates forms of public space that seek to induce intensity in experience and use. Secondly, the central library is a place for study, contemplation, reflection and introspection, asking for a less exposed surrounding and even sometimes introvert setting.

The objective to achieve a gradual change from a collective experience to an individual experience has been used to organize the spatial and functional structure of the building - open and transparent at the ground floor and closed and introvert at the highest levels of the building - with a series of intermediate steps in between that express the different gradients in-between.

Client: City of Helsinki
Location: Helsinki, Finland
Programme: Library
Status: Design competition
Dates: 2012
Design: Labics (Maria Claudia Clemente, Francesco Isidori)
Project team: Dominique Rethans, Pablo Carballal, Manuela Gentile
Model: Onorato di Manno, Gaia Lombardo
Consultants: Sustainability: 3TI Progetti Italia | Structural engineering : 3TI Progetti Italia