Helsinki Central Library


The Helsinki Central Library is a building that completes a larger whole, a kind of campus for the cultural and political life restated inside the parliament building and by a series of 'houses' for music, dance, theater, sculpture, and painting that have been designed as free-standing buildings. The project opts for a similar choice: another background structure. On the fa├žade/elevation facing the park and, further on, the Parliament, it separates the building into two masses to house a covered urban arcade that makes it possible for passers-by to cross the area from the south to the north, while providing a privileged (and protected) viewpoint.


The Helsinki Central Library is envisioned as a self-sufficient island of cultural life, rather than a library. It stands as a mute, opaque glass, urban iceberg that, at night, turns into an over-scaled urban lamp able to illuminate, literally and metaphorically, the entire Helsinki cultural district. This relationship between a practically mute exterior and a section loaded with surprises is typical manifestation of bare architecture. The project is about designing a mass without mass that could serve as both a lookout point and as a background. HCL is a neutral building, a background without a background, but with its own depth. A block of milled ice hides a super rich architectural section of activities, from reading to watching videos, singing, recording, walking, performing, exhibiting, visiting, eating, meeting, gathering, educating oneself, or taking a sauna.


Various architectural promenades are possible within the building, which, though seemingly monolithic toward the exterior by day, is transformed into a blazing urban lamp in the evening or during the dark daytime hours, which are more frequent in Helsinki than elsewhere. Five different buildings/programs, whose functions are reflected in the section and in the profile of the roofing, are aligned along the longitudinal axis of the building block, which contains these five 30 x 30 meter spaces within a lot of 150 x 30 meters or a rectangle with a 1:5 ratio. One can cross or walk through the building in different directions, using a series of ramps that rotate around the main square, or around the reading room, to flow into, along different routes, a large romantic garden with a pavilion that is on the roof of the infrastructure, or tip of the 'iceberg.'


The Library is an urban infrastructure of concrete technology. The main, inner reading room is framed by a peripheral series of independent concrete frames supporting the convex roof acting as a tank/basin for the roof garden. The room is surrounded by a regularly spaced series of concrete vertical element supporting the ramps that gradually grows around the main reading room. The lobby and the exhibition are to the south register an independent supporting scheme.

LocationHelsinki, Finland
Use: Education, Institute
Client:City of Helsinki
Design Team:

conrad-bercah, valerio paolo mosco, Petar Stelkic, Alberto Clerici, Pietro Bologna, Celina Labanca (architectural) Giancarlo Daleffe (structural) Flavio Ranica (mechanical) Andrea Angeli (graphic) Stefano Bacciocchi (render) Fram Lab (model)