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16 OODI LIBRARY, HELSINKI


sides of the ground floor. On this floor, the interior palette is based on whites, greys and black, and the ceiling is a continued part of the building’s timber bridge arched over it, and as such is clad in finished spruce.


Going up what the architect describes © Tuomas Uusheimo


as a “dramatic double staircase, almost like a drill bit going through the solid middle floor,” visitors are led to the middle layer, a more closed, modular volume of individual rooms and specific functions that require certain conditions such as acoustic isolation, or in the case of the urban workshop spaces provided, specific air control and ventilation systems.


© Tuomas Uusheimo


“Such functions of a contemporary public library don’t do well in open spaces, and are not that comfortable in a changing daylight condition,” says Antti. “As such, the middle floor is a collection of the programme that would have been compromised on the other levels.” These functions include reservable group rooms, recording studios, games rooms, 3D printers, learning spaces and workstations, all intended to provide valuable but free amenities to the public. With this closed volume necessitating daylighting be kept to a minimum, LEDs have instead been used to offer controlled lighting, as the ever-changing sunlight can be troublesome when working with screens, and some working environments require differing levels of light that cannot be guaranteed from daylighting alone. Finally, back to the spiral staircase and up to the top floor – which like the first is more open – is where ‘book heaven’ is found, delivering a more traditional library function. While it is connected visually to the city centre through the extensive glazing, the glass simultaneously separates the floor from the noise of street level thanks to its high insulation performance.


© Iwan Baan


Here are the usual racks of books, along with an event space and ‘story room.’ Surrounding this area is the continued theme of timber, covering all the flooring, including embedded and raised sections, as well as trilateral panels connecting them wherever timber stairs are not, creating a shifting space that mimics the building’s exterior. Using the same spruce material as on the floor below was not suitable here however, because it’s a relatively soft wood. Instead, the architects specified an imported oak to offer durability against


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the effects of numerous daily visitors. The ceiling here helps to aid the expansive glazing surrounding it to emphasise the sense of bringing the outdoors in, with a fluid curvature that ebbs and flows as the roof does. Antti provides further detail: “There’s constantly a slight mood change of going from a taller to a lower space. The acoustics imperceptibly change every metre because of this movement, and visually you can’t see the whole ceiling anywhere from within the floor, so as your vantage point shifts the geometry of the ceiling changes when new curves are exposed.”


Challenges & reactions Overall, the reception has reportedly been “overwhelmingly positive,” with the building reaching the 1 million visitormark in just over three months – particularly impressive in a city of around 600,000 people.


Antti reflects on some of the key challenges that led to this success: “For us, the most challenging part was to win the competition, especially the second phase. Otherwise, the wood cladding of the twisting cantilevered west facade was probably the main challenge, production-wise.


“Our office has good experience of taking a 3D model and turning it into production drawings however, and so we were able to produce the final documents that went directly into the CNC machines, straight from our office into the logger.” He muses further on architects’ changing role: “There has been a lot of talk in our industry about how architects have become distanced from the construction process, but I would strongly argue against that. At least from our office’s point of view, it’s an almost historical level of involvement when you consider that we designed the building and its shape, and were then able to turn that shape into a set of production data that went directly into the milling machines.”


Though the project was stuck slightly behind schedule, making the last six months of work “pretty frantic,” the building had to be, and was, completed and opened during the centenary year, which Antti in part dedicates to this level of involvement. He concluded: “That was both fun and exciting, and also made me proud of our young data team, who are really displaying how architects can be more involved in the contemporary world of digitalised construction.” 


ADF MAY 2019


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