Dance House Helsinki
The extension of the Seinäjoki Public Library and Provincial Library, Apila (’Clover’), was opened to the public in August 2012. The library building is located adjacent to the cultural and administrative centre designed by Alvar Aalto. The new building is linked via an underground passage to the old library building, designed by Alvar Aalto in 1965. The project is based on a winning entry in an invited competition held in 2008.
The library sits freely as a complement to the cultural and administrative centre. The placement of a new building within a complete architectural whole, created by Aalto, constitutes a very demanding design brief. The new part, with its copper exterior, enters into a dialogue with its prestigious environment. The building has its own identity – it makes no attempt to disguise itself as Aalto architecture. In terms of massing, the large building is divided into three parts, allowing it to match the scale of Aalto’s buildings. This creates an unbroken continuum between the library and the cultural and administrative centre.
The main spaces of the library – the ”news area” with the entrance, and the adult lending department – offer fantastic views towards the cultural and administrative centre. This allows the prestigious environment to become part of the interior, keeping the dialogue alive. The groups of spaces are stepped downwards from the entrance level towards the adult lending department, and from there, via the ”reading steps”, towards the youth department, and from there, via a connecting passage, to Aalto’s library.
The library has been carefully designed, down to the last detail. The concrete ceiling gives the interior an original look. The shingle-like copper surface adds personality to the façade. The visual art by the artist Aimo Katajamäki also integrates into the architectural whole in a seamless and straightforward manner. A design approach like this – ”from the whole to the smallest detail” – carries on the best of the Aalto tradition, even if the architecture consciously asserts itself as being from the 2010s.
“The new library adds contemporary 2000s touches to the administrative and cultural centre designed by Alvar Aalto, yet without competing with Aalto’s architecture. The simple yet majestic volume seems to organically connect with the terrain like a force of nature, and inside, a whole new world opens up to the visitor with compelling impact. The impression is effortless, though nothing has come about by coincidence. The various sections of the library form an exciting three-dimensional tapestry of interwoven spaces, offering views to assist orientation and arranged according to a thought-out choreography.”
The library was presented at ‘Mind-Building’, Finland’s exhibition at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia in 2018 under the chapter ‘Soft Fulcrum’.
The Finlandia Prize for Architecture 2014 shortlist
The Finnish Architecture Biennial Review 2014 jury report