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Students as library designers


What is the Central Library buzz among Aalto University students of architecture?

During the autumn period, took a look at a seminar for students of architecture at Aalto University that yielded a number of impressive and interesting designs for the Central Library. The designs are now completed, and the students may take a collective sigh of relief after all their hard work. What kinds of thoughts did the concrete design provoke within the students?

We met up with Kristian Forsberg, 25, Mirja Puoskari, 25, Salla Oikkonen, 23 and Harri Lindberg, 26, students of architecture at Aalto University. The aspiring architects are in their fifth or sixth year, so they are already at an advanced stage of their studies. The quartet is satisfied with their completed seminar works, or as satisfied as a self-critical designer in the creative domain can ever be.

“There’s always something to improve or polish! However, considering the challenging assignment and the time at our disposal, we are satisfied with the results,” say the students.

At first, the assignment of designing the Central Library building in a key location in Töölönlahti inspired excitement and interest.

“Initially, the list of things that the building should include felt also very challenging as the library covered a whopping 15,000 square metres! We were almost discouraged by the seeming impossibility of the assignment,” describes Salla.

“Then, we were taken by the wonderful enthusiasm that we could really put our souls into the settings of a library we would personally enjoy spending time in,” continues Mirja.

“The central location made the project more interesting also because it is rare that Helsinki city centre allows for building something entirely new. Naturally, Töölönlahti had its own problems as the area is in conflict with itself and the town plan has been constantly changing. As the buildings do not support each other, how is it possible to fit among them a public building that serves a large crowd?” reflects Kristian.

Kristian, Mirja, Salla and Harri

From outdoors to indoors – different starting points

Every student’s work is different and personal. Kristian started by breaking the figure.

“I started to break the borders of the planned, narrow plot by allowing external space as well. My challenges also included the arched facade of the building I designed, the way light filters to the inner space and how people are under the arched space. It was difficult to adapt to the surrounding buildings.”

Salla set forth with a very simple base that offers closed spaces on the street side and an open public space on the park side.

“I went for attractiveness with, for example, a 24-hour library located at the corner, providing direct visual and physical access to Eliel Square. I tried to create interesting indoor spaces by altering heights and opening up different kinds of views to the city.”

Mirja started by examining the library space from the inside. Her ideas included a living room feeling and thematic lounges for each of the different levels in the building.

“The main open space of the library has been lifted above the traffic from the ground floor to the second floor, where different living room levels provide views towards Töölönlahti. All in all, the indoor spaces are open and layered, hosting a topside restaurant and a rooftop terrace.”

Harri mentions having put special focus on the relationship between the building and the urban space, i.e., how the surrounding space and the library building would functionally stimulate each other. His themes include extroversion, attractiveness and versatility.

“Outdoor library spaces do not have to mean a park and a lawn. I’m interested in what else the outdoor urban environment could entail and what its possibilities are.”

Harri’s work presents a moody, large outdoor stage with performances that live and charm in urban nightlife.

What would I want from the Central Library?

The group confesses to being somewhat rare visitors to the library.

“Sometimes, I visit the Library 10 music room to play the piano,” says Mirja. “Personally, I go to the library to read when it is difficult to concentrate at home,” reveals Kristian.

Would you use the new Central Library more?

“I’m sure I would be attracted by the welcoming surroundings. For example, the Turku City Library is a place I always want to visit when I’m in Turku. I would like to be as attracted to the Helsinki Central Library,” says Salla.

“If the facilities were versatile, I would surely use them. For example, you could organise various workshops at the library, meaning practical activities that stimulate the surrounding park and street space,” wishes Harri.

“Personally, I would want to have magazines regarding my domain or expertise and a cosy area, such as a café. And, for hot summer days, a building of this size could also host a nice bar. I believe that any public, well-designed and free space is something that people will find,” states Kristian.

“I would like to have an environment like a living room, or maybe a restaurant. In addition, should versatile music facilities be available, I would definitely use them,” adds Mirja.

The students hope that the decision-makers will really organise an open architectural competition for the design of the Central Library. And, of course, they would be more than willing to take part themselves!

“After this much work already, I would take part for sure,” says Salla.

“The head start we obtained with this study project is significant,” adds Mirja.

“I hope a competition is in the works,” says Harri. “After all, it is a highly significant public space in the urban environment. I would definitely take part.”

“Well, our works would need a little additional polishing,” reminds the entire group.

Photo: Kristian Forsberg

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