The City Council confirmed the construction of the Central Library in its meeting on 28 January. Helsinki Library Director Tuula Haavisto celebrates the decision. “Finland’s 100th anniversary in 2018 will be marked by this very special event! There are not many countries where the library would be a more fitting symbol of independence and 100 years of existence,” says Tuula Haavisto.
The Library Director sees the library as one of the key elements of society. “The library is the foundation of Finnish education, and in Finland education has been a survival strategy. The spirit that everyone has access to education has been an integral part of it: the entire population has had access to knowledge and culture, since library services have been open to all from the beginning. The library also plays a crucial role in ensuring the freedom of expression, as it guarantees that knowledge is available.
In Finland, the beloved library is the most popular cultural service. “Finns have voted with their feet; the long-existing library network has been used at a world-record pace,” says Tuula Haavisto.
The Central Library is a landmark for the Finnish library
The Central Library will bring much-needed versatile non-commercial space into Helsinki city centre. “The big building accommodates quiet space with bookshelves, which our users expressly want, a range of spaces for doing things, performances and exhibitions. Families can do many fun things together in the library and in the city centre playgrounds,” says Tuula Haavisto.
The new Central Library will also boost the cultural activities offered in Töölönlahti. “All in all, the Central Library will enliven the heart of the city and introduce into the area spaces for citizens to do the things they like.
The Central Library is a special landmark for the development of libraries across Finland. “The Central Library leads the way in defining the roles of the library in the 2010s. The roles are diversifying; the library will focus on supporting citizenship and people doing things actively themselves,” the director says.
Promoting reading will stay on the library’s agenda. “We have just heard the results of a recent brain study: reading high-quality long texts, such as quality fiction, is one of the best ways to work out your brain.
Contents and operation models for the Central Library have been analysed in co-operation with the library, city residents and partners through participatory work. City residents have had the opportunity to have their say in the planning phase of the library, for example in the Central Library Friends project.
The Central Library step by step
From idea to planning, 1998–2014
- 1998 Minister of Culture Claes Andersson’s proposal on a new main library to be constructed in city centre
- 1998–2000 Citizens’ initiatives, newspaper articles and council initiatives on a new central library
- 2000 The Cultural and Library Committee approves the preliminary expression of needs on 20 December
- 2002 The council approves on 13 March the initiative on the construction of a central library and on the further planning of the Töölönlahti city plan.
- 2005 The Cultural and Library Committee’s decision on 8 March on preparing an expression of needs
- 2006 The Cultural and Library Committee approves on 5 December the central library expression of needs
- 2008 Expert Mikko Leisti’s report “The Heart of the Metropolis” published on 12 March
- 2010 Preliminary project plan completed on 29 April
- 2011 Mayor’s decision on 19 October to launch preparation for a central library architectural competition
- 2012 First phase of the architectural competition 5 January –16 April, the competition attracts 544 entries
- 2012 Second phase of the architectural competition begins on 21 November, with six candidates
- 2013 Winner published on 14 June in the Music Centre. Winner: “Käännös” by ALA Architects
- 2014 Project planning and general planning
From planning to realisation, 2015–2018
- 2015 Foundation construction work begins in September and lasts till 2016
- 2016 Other construction, also that of the building itself, begins in November
- 2018 Building ready in the autumn
- 2018 The Central Library opens on 6 December