HELSINKI CENTER LIBARY DESIGN BY ALA ARCHITECTS
HELSINKI CENTER LIBARY DESIGN BY ALA ARCHITECTS
Finnish studio ALA Architects has won the international competition to design a new public library in Helsinki with plans that involve a mass of twisted timber launched in January 2012, the competition asked applicants to come up with a timeless, flexible and energy-efficient building to sit opposite the Finnish Parliament building in the Töölönlahti area of the city.
ALA Architects' response is for a three-storey structure comprising a contorted timber volume. Public activities and group study areas will occupy an active ground floor beneath the curving wooden surfaces, while a traditionally quiet reading room will be located above and a contemporary media facility and public sauna will be housed in the middle.
Two main entrances will provide access to the building. A public plaza in front of the western facade is to lead into a main lobby, where a staircase will spiral up to the floors above, while a second entrance will face the railway station to the south and offer an escalator that penetrates the wooden volume overhead.
"The architecture of the proposal is of a very high quality, executed with relaxed, broad strokes, and memorable," commented the competition organisers.
They added: "The proposal provides excellent premises for the development of a completely new functional concept for the library. The building has a unique appeal and the prerequisites to become the new symbolic building which Helsinki residents, library users, as well as the staff will readily adopt as their own."
ALA Architects, who is also based in Helsinki, plans to use local materials such as Siberian larch to construct the Helsinki Central Library and it is scheduled to open in 2018.
The studio previously worked on another building with an undulating timber structure for the Kilden performing arts centre in Kristiansand, Norway.
INFORMATION FROM ALA ARCHITECTS:
ALA Architects have won the design competition for the new Helsinki Central Library with their entry Käännös. The open international two-stage competition attracted 544 entries from all over the world. The 16,000 square metre library building in the heart of Helsinki will consist almost entirely of public spaces and will offer a wide selection of services. It will serve as the new central point for the city's impressive public library network.
The winning entry is based on the idea of dividing the functions of the library into three distinctive levels: an active ground floor, a calm upper floor, and an enclosed in-between volume containing the more specific functions. This concept has been developed into an arching form that invites people to utilise the spaces and services underneath, inside and on top of it. The resulting building will be an inspiring and highly functional addition to the urban life of Helsinki and the nationally significant Töölönlahti area.
ALA is one of the leading Nordic architecture firms. The office has previously completed the Kilden Performing Arts Centre in Kristiansand, Norway, and is currently working on a number of large public projects in Finland including two theaters, five subway stations, and a passenger ferry hub. Käännös has been designed by ALA partners Juho Grönholm, Antti Nousjoki, Janne Teräsvirta and Samuli Woolston together with the ALA project team, assisted by the engineering experts at Arup.
Käännös grows from the dynamic between the site and the goals of the library program. The interplay between the building's three individual floors is the key concept of the entry.
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 area for contemplation, 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. Soft, curved shapes will be present all around the building.
The curved ceiling covering the ground floor, the intensive flowing spaces on the middle level, as well as the curving floor surface of the top floor are all defined in the timber-clad mass, which is as functional as it is expressive.
There will be three public entrance points in the building: one in the south for the main pedestrian flow from the direction of the Central Railway Station, one next to the public plaza to the west of the building shielded by an overhanging canopy, as well as a secondary one in the northeastern corner. The top floor can be reached from the southern entrance by an escalator that penetrates the wooden volume, or from the main lobby via a spiraling double-helix stair.
Each floor will be a destination in its own right and a new exciting civic space in the heart of Helsinki. While being a traditional library space, the top floor will also act as a modern, open, flexible platform for a multitude of functions. The middle floor will offer opportunities for learning-by-doing in an environment optimised for contemporary media and latest tools. It will contain workshop spaces for music and multimedia, as well as a public sauna. A multipurpose hall, a restaurant and a cinema will be located on ground floor. The library's facilities will offer services, as well as places to meet, to discuss, and to present ideas.
The library building will be extremely energy efficient. It will be constructed using local materials and with local climate conditions in mind. Some of the main load-bearing components will be made of timber. The wooden façade will be built from pre-assembled elements finished on-site. 30 millimetre thick Finnish first grade Siberian Larch wood, shaped with a parametric 3D design and manufacturing process in order to achieve a perfect execution of the desired geometry, will be used for the cladding. The appearance of the façade will develop over the years towards a deeper, richer version of its initial hue. The design of the façade is intrinsic to the passive design approach adopted by the project team. Detailed analysis of the façade performance informs the environmental solutions and has allowed the team to minimise any systems required, which in turn facilitates the highly flexible architectural solution.
ALA is a Helsinki –based architectural firm led by its four founding partners: Juho Grönholm (b. 1975), Antti Nousjoki (b.1974), Janne Teräsvirta (b. 1975) and Samuli Woolston (b. 1975). Their collaboration started in 2004 through success in open competitions. The first prize in the open competition for the new theater and concert hall in Kristiansand, Norway (known today as Kilden Performing Arts Centre) in 2005 granted them their first big commission. In 2012 the four ALA partners received the prestigious Finnish State Prize for Architecture.
ALA currently employs 35 architects, students and staff members, coming from international backgrounds, organized in design teams to work closely together on specific projects. The four partners are directly involved with all aspects of the office’s design work, and take a very hands-on approach at the critical stages of each project. All team members are expected to contribute to the creative process.
ALA uses contemporary design tools such as building information modeling, 3D printing, and parametric design software. These methods are combined with the more traditional ones such as model building and materials research to find the best solution to each question. The office relies on its network of highly competent international collaborators and specialists to stimulate the exchange of up-to-date knowledge.
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Founded in 1946 with an initial focus on structural engineering, Arup first came to the world’s attention with the structural design of the Sydney Opera House, followed by its work on the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Arup has since grown into a truly multidisciplinary organisation. Most recently, its work for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing has reaffirmed its reputation for delivering innovative and sustainable designs that reinvent the built environment.
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