Library 10 has now pioneered zen tranquility. The finishing touches were completed on the new Suvanto area (meaning backwater in Finnish) at the beginning of the year. It was carried out as a result of the Central Library’s participatory budgeting project. One of the repeated wishes of citizens was to have a place where one could relax, re-energize, and to escape the cacophony of noise and sounds of the city. So how has the resulting space succeeded?
During lunch hours the Suvanto exudes tranquility. Nestled in an oversized beanbag, a lone library customer is reading. The soft thick rug has the feel and look of smooth rounded stones along a lakeshore. Shoes of course have been removed and left off to the side. In addition to the rug and bean bag, there are cushioned chairs, a yoga hammock, and three technical features.
On the Barrisol whitewall, colors blend and change fluidly. A projector brings the opposite wall alive with short videos of animals, forests, clouds, and autumn foliage. Above it all, small speakers shower individual chairs with meditative music. The combined sensory experience works wonders to provide an enticing yet relaxing atmosphere.
Yoga, relax, relaxing yoga
The customer relaxing in the beanbag that we spoke with happens to be named Marco Suvanto. What a coincidence! “I noticed this area about a month ago, especially because of the name. I like to try new things, and today I finally got a chance to come and sample a peaceful moment during lunchtime.” Marco particularly liked the changing lights and the feel of the rug. “It’s stylish and gives off a welcoming vibe,” he explains.
The rug needs to be thick for the acoustics and the sound showers to work properly. The furnishings in the Suvanto can be rearranged. One can lounge on the rug or even do yoga. One can sink into the yoga hammock and get completely swallowed up.
“One customer was relaxing in the hammock for nearly three hours and we didn’t even notice that anyone was in there,” laughs Kari Lämsä, Head of Library 10.
More food for the soul at libraries
For Marco Suvanto, he sees the library as a natural place to have a dedicated area for relaxing and re-energizing. He then takes a test dive into the yoga hammock. “The library already has a tranquil atmosphere, so having an area that takes it to the next level only seems logical. It would be too great a transition if one were to step into the Suvanto directly off the street.” He continues, “I have frequented the library as a little child, and it’s great to see the change in the library. This area is a great example of food for the soul coming in many different forms.”
Libary 10’s relaxation area was designed by the Helsinki based architect and design office of Talli Oy, with which the Helsinki City Libary has long done cooperative projects. Talli has also designed Library 10’s interior furnishings.
An ambient space for stories
At this moment the projector in the Suvanto is showing videos from YouTube, and signs prohibiting shoes and food in the area greet any newcomers.
“Because there are so many videos available from all directions, I think there could be a greater effort into what gets projected here. Also, I wish these signs prohibiting things could be done in a more creative manner, so that they don’t come across as negative“, ponders Marco as he awakens from the yoga hammock. “There could also be a small path that leads one to this area to make it more welcoming and noticeable.”
Kari Lämsä explains that the Suvanto area will be used for various purposes in the future. “One idea, for example, is to have story time sessions for children and why not adults as well? Different media works can be displayed through the projector, while the space can be used for creative art projects, or as a gallery, or for suitable performances.” The Suvanto is what customers have wished and longed for at the library. As part of the plans for the new Central Library, it shows one version of quietness.
Later in the afternoon, a group of friends are laying about. Milla, Joanna, and Ari crystallize the value of the Suvanto, “This place is great, because here one can just be. One does not have to do anything.”
Text: Siru Valleala