helsinki central library by PAR architecture
helsinki central library by PAR architecture helsinki central library by PAR architecture
dec 06, 2012
helsinki central library by PAR architecture

‘helsinki central library’ by PAR architecture


the cityscape in all its variety—the idyllic baltic sea, the broad expanse of skyline dotted with spires, and the urbanized plane of
töölönlahti was the incentive to design a building that concentrates on being vertical. in contrast to the other buildings in the district,
an essential component of the design involved creating a public space at the top of the library—visually connecting töölönlahti to
senate square and the city at large.


conceived by american PAR architecture, the library is organized by six intersecting axes that afford spectacular vistas while creating
a variety of spatial configurations for the library’s program. with its six floor levels each pointing toward a celebrated landmark,
the building becomes a symbolic center for city. public living rooms are located within the three sloping peaks, the reading room,
sauna and restaurant.



park view



designed as a spatial sequence with surprising transitions, each floor of the library presents connections from social spaces
such as reading platforms, sun rooms and the observatory to helsinki’s enduring icons. with panoramic views of the city and
senate square dome, the observatory terminates the promenade of escalators and staircases that dynamically rise through the building.


a series of programmatic strips are stacked to create a narrow building that is optimal for the helsinki climate and library program.
featuring 11.5 m deep plates that allow for flexibility in collections layout and maximize available natural light, they create an ideal 
reading environment crucial for the library. a super impostion of the strips is extruded up to maximum height generating a prismatic 
volume that contains a public void at the ground level. along the plaza is a multi-height atrium which opens up to the park and
pedestrian pathway draws people into the library. the landscape block is at the same time integrated and outstanding, traditional 
and contemporary. it creates a stage-like space for the annual gathering of the national day of finland.






reading room



aerial view


psychogeography landmark map


integrated systems


spatial strategy


spatial strategy


facade development


program mix




project details:

project: helsinki central library
client: city of Helsinki

type: civic
size: 14,000 M2
location: helsinki, finland
status: 2012, competition
engineer: arup
environmental: arup, russell fortmeyer, senior consultant
visualizer: labtop
architect: PAR (jennifer marmon, partner in charge; matthew young, project architect)
team: ross ferrari, allison klute, cory ringo, seyoung choi, ryan fagre, tom ames, reza hadian, garrett runck, aliya popita, yen vo, cici luong, ji hao


designboom has received this project from our ‘DIY submissions‘ feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication.
see more project submissions from our readers

comments policy
login with designboom
designboom's comment policy guidelines
generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

- please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
- please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
- please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
- please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
- please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
(there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
the best 100-200 entries too.)

a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.