Helsinki University Main Library, the largest academic library in Finland is located in a historically important city block in the very heart of the city centre. The library was designed to offer a wide range of services flexibly to a large number of customers. This imposing building in the centre of Helsinki provides a gateway to the new information age.
The new library building complements the urban block by adding a curved brick facade, integrated within the street line formed by the adjacent buildings.
The architectural starting point - the cityscape considered - was a vision of a unique public building that will suit its surroundings in terms of its materials, design and height. The dense fenestration grid, which blurs the standard floor division, together with the large arched openings give the library a distinct external appearance. By varying the size of the arched openings the building is fitted as an integrative solution within a situation of three different types of street space.
The design of the building’s interior is based on an aligned series of openings in the ceilings. Three distinct apertures and the main staircase form a series of spaces serving as a basis for the ambiance of the interior, the functional zones as well as the architecture of the façade. The architectural concept of the façade directly reflects the functional solutions of the interior.
The facilities have been divided into functional zones with the aim of facilitating the use of the library and its services. This will, in turn, support and facilitate the learning process. The apertures are encircled by walkways and the information zone, which is, in turn, surrounded by the collections zone.
A work zone with sound-proof working facilities provides areas for both quiet reading and noisy group work. The library also has quiet reading rooms. Field-specific areas are designated for the collections in each of the floors.
Staff facilities and offices are on the collection floors above ground level. The customer service centre with its back offices is located on the entrance level. Acquisitions and cataloguing, and administration and network services can be found on the top floor, while the logistics centre is below ground with the maintenance facilities. New library materials will first be transported from the logistics centre to the top floor for processing and then delivered to their destinations on the appropriate floors.
The objective of the University of Helsinki was to build a representative, interesting and comfortable facilities for students, researchers and staff to be appreciated.
The building has a reinforced concrete frame which is built on top of the old, existing basement levels. Due to increasing load the old concrete structures were heavily reinforced.
The facades are concrete walls which are covered with onsite laid brickwork.
The large main window openings are suspended steel structures.
A large arched opening in harmony with a stunning oval-shaped interior atrium, the Helsinki University Main Library presents a dynamic gate to a new information age.
In order to accentuate the curves of the atrium, the white balconies on each floor are formed like concentric cloud rings, drawing the eye upward. Serving a dual purpose, the materials used for the balcony walls help to improve the acoustics of the space, which are of course an essential performance requirement for a library.
To achieve the smooth, curved surfaces with required acoustic performance, Anttinen Oiva Architects used MONO Acoustic TE. Rockfon ceilings are also used throughout the rest of the library, along with Industrial Opal installed behind stretch metal mesh.
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When the university of Helsinki decided to develop a new central library on the site of an old department store in the centre of the city, few imagined just how spectacular the final result would be. One of the visionary few was Vesa Oiva of Anttinen Oiva Architects (AOA), who came up with a bold and elegant proposal, saying, “The nature of libraries will change considerably over the next 50 years, and this called for flexible building system solutions.”
The heart of Kaisa House is a magnificent oval atrium that rises through the entire building. The curves of the atrium harmonise with the strong curved openings carved into the western elevation of the building. To accentuate the curves of the atrium, the white balconies on each floor seem to hang in the air like concentric cloud rings, drawing the eye upward.
But the balcony walls are actually improving the acoustics of the space, creating a calm and quiet environment for library users. To achieve the smooth surface and curve they wanted, aoa used MONO Acoustic TE. ROCKFON ceilings are also helping throughout the rest of the library, with Industrial Opal installed behind a stretch-metal mesh.
From the moment it opened, “Lady Kaisa” won over the hearts and minds of the public, earning it the annual award of the Finnish Critics’ Association in the spring of 2012.
The most ambitious project of the Helsinki World Design Capital year
The Helsinki University Main Library in Kaisa House is the most ambitious project of the Helsinki World Design Capital year, which shapes both the cityscape and services. The building represents new award-winning Finnish architecture. It has been awarded e.g. the 2012 Critics' Spurs award.
The surface area of the new building in the city centre Elk block is 15,500 square metres. The building was completed on May Day eve 2012 and opened for customer use on the 3rd of September 2012 when the university term began.
In the new building the library operates closely with the Learning Centre Aleksandria to which there is access both from Kaisa House and Porthania. Also the American Resource Center, and a book café Gaudeamus Kirja & Kahvi have come to Kaisa House.