The proposal for the new Helsinki Central Library (HARPPU) rethinks the very nature of library in order to create a contemporary Agora. It focuses on the places to generate local specific knowledge as well as being connected to the global knowledge pool.


TYPE Public space, Library
STATUS Competition
LOCATION Helsinki, Finland
YEAR 2012
CLIENT City of Helsinki

DESIGN TEAM Gaspar Altamiro, Eva Castro, Li Gan, Ulla Hell, Holger Kehne, Libny Pacheco, Yun Shi, Sheeham Wachter, Chuan Wang

In that regard, the building offers elasticity and versatility, achieved through the employment of two sets of ramps–a simple resource that produces a double-helix organization a hyper-linked space, breaking the hierarchies of common public spaces and providing a non-linear experience where incidental and accidental encounters occur between the users of the library, increasing the chances for new affinities and ultimately the production of shared knowledge. This is further enhanced by a series of seating steps and walking stairs between the half levels that can offer casual configurations for individuals and groups to find their own space and gather or to connect to another area of the library.

The library works like a machine to alter, mutate and adapt to changing usage patterns and optimization processes. This process would start with extensive user participation and consultation during the design process and would continue perpetually. What has been drawn here is just one version of limitless different possible arrangements and combinations that stem from the ‘hyperlinks’ of ramps, stairs and the array of vertical cores

The contrast that emerges becomes articulated in the variegated façade, made by combination of glass and white-steel. The library turns visceral, generating different light conditions and spatial qualities without the conventional compartmentalization of space. Through these moves, the new library becomes the living room for the city, creating a sensorial experience from façade into plan, where light quality guides the user both inside and out.

Generate a seamless connection with the surrounding public space, the ground floor of the library has been given as much transparency to let people to visually and physically cross through. The structural design follows in a logical and rigorous manner from the internal organization. The building floats above the ground, primarily supported by a series of concrete cores and columns. These partially support the slabs, which will receive additional support from being hung off the roof grillage by a 5m-spaced series of flat steel members. Likewise the central ramps are hung off from 1m-spaced series of cables that form sculptural weaving curtains which scatter light into the surrounding areas. On the other hand, an opening has been produced in the roof to allow for a public terrace, which becomes another means to connect people with their city.