As the library sits in the heart of Helsinki and is central to Finnish society we felt it was crucial to make a building that can compete with its iconic surrounding while connecting to the underground plaza.
Therefore we started with a library volume that is pushed up in response to the planned tunnel on the south side. Within the maximum volume set by the town plan (+21m on the west side and +25m on the east side) our proposed volume above ground allows the building to compete with the iconic presence of the surrounding Finnish Parliament building, Finlandia Hall, the National Museum, Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, and the Helsinki Music Centre. The volume creates the symbolic value required for a library that has been shaped by the long vistas of the landscape. The volume has for example been cut to accommodate the vista from the southeast corner towards the Music Hall. And on the north side we pushed the library volume down to merge with the landscape and connect with the planned underground plaza, creating a diagonal volume. Pushing the building down creates an easy access from both the above- and underground plazas, making the public library even more public. But where the library is pushed down, library functions that do not require security are merged with the landscape. Functions such as meeting areas and performance spaces allow the spread of knowledge 24/7, making the library a perpetual catalyst of knowledge. Another connection with the landscape is where the building comes out of the ground and the café, restaurant and terrace are located to activate the landscape. As part of the pedestrian city center, the café and restaurant are located along the cut in the building that connects the main pedestrian flow from the city center and drop-off in the south to the entrance in the north.
Because bicycling is another important means of transportation, we have reserved a large bicycle area near the main entrance in the north.
Car-parking spaces are placed in the general car-parking facilities and there is an underground service connection to the city block no. 2014. In the southern part of the block is an underground space (symbol: ma/1) where is due to be situated an underground traffic tunnel (City Centre Tunnel).
As a result our proposal mediates between the iconic proportions on the south side and the vastness of the landscape on the north.
By pushing the library volume down in the landscape on the north we make the public library even more public while creating an iconic presence by elevating the library in the north.
Although our proposal has strong urban roots, our proposal was designed from the inside out. To create an inspiring place that allows for a maximum transfer of knowledge and self-development we felt it was important to create a very clear building. At the bottom of the dip in the landscape and with escalators pointing down, the entrance of the library can easily be found. In case the visitor comes from the underground plaza, a generous amount of daylight and a landscape folded down announces the presence of the library at the underground level. Upon arrival the entrance space creates a full overview of the library, thanks to the diagonal volume. In one view you can see where you need to go and what other functions the building has. Like the treads of a stair, each step contains a different part of the library. With each step slightly overlapping the next, open and closed spaces are created that allow for different acoustic needs. Part of the program opens out to the exterior landscape while other parts require more restrictions, like the book collection.
The high quality and timeless architecture is integrated with innovative ecological solutions. As a consequence, the building is extremely energy efficient without showing it off.
Central to our library design is the freedom to self-development for all user groups. To achieve maximum freedom we merged parts of the library functions into the landscape. By inserting meeting and performance spaces we turn the landscape into an extension of the library, allowing a continuous transfer of knowledge.
On the inside of the building we have adopted all operations of the public library in a way that allows for flexibility within each function. Each step in our diagonal design has a significant area that allows for changes in operation or technology. At the same time each step combines different functions that are complementary such as book collections in combination with learning and doing spaces. The multi-sensory environment of each step accelerates when the all diagonal spaces are considered.
All steps are connected by a diagonal funicular and stairs that follow the diagonal slope, allowing anyone to reach any required level. The diagonal circulation at the same time functions as structure for the building. Thanks to the overlap, each step has both a quiet concealed spaces and a more open area.
But within the singular diagonal space it is very important to keep the acoustics under control. Therefore sound producing programs or spaces that require silence are located in the covered area of each step.
Because the loading dock and reception located in the north, all other service programs are also efficiently located in the north.
Another reason to build a large part of the building below ground is to minimize its energy consumption. Our goal is to design a zero energy library building. Building below ground and taking advantage of the constant ground temperature helps us stay within the E-value target of 120kWh/m2 for the whole building. Since the building is connected to the district heating and cooling, our biggest challenge for the HVAC system is to efficiently supply fresh air and limit the heat transfer of the building skin. For the efficient supply of fresh air we plan for example to preheat the outside air through tubes in the foundation of the building. For the skin we limit the heat transfer by maximizing the insulation value of the glass and insulation package.
The objectives for the indoor climate conditions related to thermal comfort, lighting, indoor air quality and acoustic values are attainable.
And in the choice of materials and structural solutions we strive for maximizing material efficiency and minimizing the environmental impact. In our calculations we achieve the required goals for material efficiency.
Our design is specifically designed for the Finnish climate and local conditions and can be constructed in accordance with the Finnish building law, standards and directives. We also enabled the implementation of the future City Center Tunnel.
Based on our competition design we believe the investment cost (69.9 million € (0% VAT)) as well as the total area of 10.000m2 are within the requirements mentioned in the competition program. All exterior, interior and technical spaces are repairable and serviceable and we estimate the lifespan of our proposal to be about 150 years.