ALA architects' Oodi central library in helsinki opens as an indoor extension of public space

ALA architects' Oodi central library in helsinki opens as an indoor extension of public space

ALA architects has completed Oodi, helsinki’s new central library which is set to open on 5 december 2018, a day before finland marks its 101st anniversary as an independent country. located on a hugely significant unoccupied site opposite the finnish parliament, the 17,250 sqm structure seeks to extend the public space of the civic square into the enclosed public space of the library through a covered canopy and balcony clad in planks of finnish spruce timber.

all images by tuomas uusheimo unless stated otherwise, all courtesy of ALA architects



chosen following an anonymous international competition that attracted 544 entries, the winning design by ALA architects represents a new era of libraries in finland and responds to a 2017 update, which established a mandate for libraries to promote lifelong learning, active citizenship, democracy and freedom of expression. through the use of technology, online services, and a team of book-sorting robots, only 1/3 of the space within Oodi is used to hold books, shifting priorities away from storage of a large static collection and towards a new role of the library. the resulting program embodies an indoor extension of public space, which offers facilities such as a movie theater, recording studios, a maker space, exhibitions, and community events in addition to books.

image © iwan baan



‘Oodi is a large public forum of thought and action operating under the library organization, but with a range of reach and functionality well beyond a traditional book depository,’ notes antti nousjoki, one of the three partners at ALA architects. ‘it is an enabler of full versed public life, thought, production and sharing in the heart of the growing helsinki.’



divided in three levels, Oodi incorporates an active ground floor that extends the town square into an interior space; a peaceful open-plan reading room titled book heaven on the upper level; and an enclosed in-between volume containing rooms to accommodate additional services and facilities within the library. the library’s design has been developed as an inhabited bridge, with two massive steel arches that span over 100 meters to create a fully enclosed, column-free public entrance space, clusters of rooms grouped around the structure, and the open-plan reading room carried above.

image © iwan baan

image © iwan baan



UPDATE: this project has been shortlisted in the ‘completed buildings – culture’ category and for the ‘best use of certified timber prize’ at the 2019 world architecture festival.



project info:



client: city of helsinki
architect: ALA architects

location: töölönlahdenkatu 4, 00100 helsinki, finland
program: library facilities, meeting rooms, group working space, maker space, living lab, recording studios, photography studio, editing rooms, office space, café, restaurant, movie theater, auditorium, multi-purpose hall, exhibition facilities, information booths, 17,250 m2



competition phase: arup (energy technical specialist, mechanical engineering, structural engineering and facade engineering), vizarch (renderings), klaus stolt (scale models)

implementation phase: yit (main contractor), e.m. pekkinen (contractor for excavation work and basement construction), ramboll cm (project management) ramboll finland (structural engineering, hvac, energy technology), granlund (theater technology), rejlers (electrical engineering and av consulting), finnmap infra & sipti infra (geo planning), helimaki acoustics (acoustical engineering), gravicon (bim coordinator), palotekninen insinööritoimisto markku kauriala (fire safety), pöyry finland (traffic planning), saircon (kitchen design), vizarch (renderings) and stoltmodels (scale models)


team at ALA:

competition phase:

ALA partners juho grönholm, antti nousjoki, janne teräsvirta and samuli woolston with aleksi niemeläinen, jussi vuori and erica österlund, as well as willem barendregt, martin genet, vladimir ilic, tiina liisa juuti, julius kekoni, auvo lindroos, pekka sivula, pekka tainio and jyri tartia

implementation phase: ALA partners juho grönholm, antti nousjoki, janne teräsvirta (until 2015) and samuli woolston with niklas mahlberg, jussi vuori, tuulikki tanska, tom stevens, nea tuominen, pauliina rossi, anna juhola and miguel silva, as well as michal bala, marina diaz garcia, jyri eskola, zuzana hejtmankova, harri humppi, mette kahlos, anniina kortemaa, felix laitinen, malgorzata mutkowska, t. k. justin ng, marlène oberli-räihä, olli parviainen, alicia peña gomez, anton pramstrahler, jack prendergast, akanksha rathi, niina rinkinen, mikael rupponen and pekka sivula

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