JKMM architects expands alvar aalto's seinajoki city library
JKMM architects expands alvar aalto's seinajoki city library JKMM architects expands alvar aalto's seinajoki city library
apr 16, 2013

JKMM architects expands alvar aalto's seinajoki city library

fortunately, the world still contains treasures left by the masters that stand as a testament to the old school of design and their stringent principles and consequent magic. unfortunately, the world constantly moves at increasingly faster speeds and the quality and functions of spaces change with every advance in technology. this a problem which renders the existing masterpieces nonfunctional in contemporary society, and poses a difficult question to architects who are faced with their potential expansion or destruction in order to replace them with a more appropriate structure.


finnish studio JKMM architects have recently completed a solution for the expansion of the ‘seinajoki city library’ in the context of alvar aalto’s civic center in 1965, which runs the delicate line between the preservation of history and the creation of contemporary identity. the architects focused primarily on two challenges: the physical and symbolic connection with the old library and the preparation of spaces for current and future use.

entrance area
image © mika huisman | image © tuomas uusheimo




‘to attract visitors, a well-functioning library must provide experiences’ – says architect asmo jaaksi. the structure, a winning competition entry from 2008, consists of three sculptural pieces sited in the middle of the park, like three frames that offer different slices of the surrounding city. much attention was given to the design of the new library with respect to aalto’s legendary work; the designers carefully alluded to the late architect’s language while avoiding a blatant copy. all three cast-in-place concrete shells follow a loose fan-shape footprint and utilize long-span beams — a form used mostly in bridge designs — to achieve a completely open floor plan.

image © mika huisman



the various levels suggest the form of extended terraces that look onto each other, another common feature found in aalto’s library designs. active retrieval of information and the human interaction became the other driving force behind the new design. large gentle-sloping steps at the core of the structure allow vertical circulation to the subterranean level that connects to the original library, and also offers a sitting place for a range of gatherings for events or individual use. the mechanical and electrical systems were integrated into the unfinished structure, clearing the interior of visual clutter and controlling noise.

main hall curtain wall
image © mika huisman



where the two libraries differ is in the exterior materiality and use of glazing and light qualities. aalto’s libraries utilized mostly indirect lighting, the new seinajoki city library instead opens views to the exterior through three controlled curtain walls. from the main large window you can see the lakeuden risti churh’s historical clock tower; from the main entry one can enjoy the civic center plaza and theater. smaller windows located higher on the walls accept light and reflect it off the unfinished subtly-faceted roof plan into the reading areas for additional illumination.

image © mika huisman



the exterior is also clad in a specially-produced dark copper panels that give the new structure its own identity while not overpowering the surrounding edifices. broken into three concrete-shell volumes, the interior spaces are thermally well maintained with the thick concrete envelope and an efficient heat recovery system. all curtain walls face north inset from the overhanging frame to reduce excess solar gain in the summer.

unique copper cladding developed specially for this project
image © mika huisman

levels allow views over the other sections
image © mika huisman

open steps foster interaction
image © tuomas uusheimo

exposed concrete with wood-form pattern
image © tuomas uusheimo

main book shelves
image © mika huisman

children’s book area
image © mika huisman

reading room
image © mika huisman

stairs to children’s reading section
image © tuomas uusheimo

inset nooks provide fun social reading environments
image © tuomas uusheimo



project info:


project: city library in seinäjoki
address: alvar aallon katu 14,  60100 seinäjoki, finland
year of completion: 2012
floor area: 4,430 m2 (brutto)
client: city of seinäjoki
user: seinäjoki city library
building owner: city of seinäjoki
schedule: competition 1st prize november ÷ may 2009 – may 2010 / construction september 2010- july 2012
architect: JKMM architects / main designer: asmo jaaksi – architect safa
design team: teemu kurkela, samuli miettinen, juha mäki-jyllilä, aaro martikainen (project architect), teemu toivio (project architect) – architects safa, harri lindberg – arch. student, päivi meuronen (interior design) – interior architect sio
structural design: magnus malmberg oy / eero pekkari
hpac design: ylitalo oy / pekka nykänen
electrical design: satakunnan insinöörikeskus oy / lauri levo
main contractor: rakennusliike timo nyyssölä oy
electrical contractor: jalasjärven sähköasennus oy
air conditioning: lakeuden ilmastointi oy
plumbing: pohjanmaan putki oy


  • extraordinarily beautiful – the three concrete-shell volumes, the interior spaces, the inset nooks, stairs for sitting and interacting…. wonderful, considered and respectful design.

    owl's house london. says:
  • Wow…amazing design!… I wish to visit it!

    luisEfe80 says:
  • There’s not a single thing that’s not amazing about this building!
    Absolutely breathtaking!!

    ThomasV says:
  • Staying classy Finland!

    Mr Green says:
  • BRAVO!

    idle_crane says:
  • very very nice!

    twny says:

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