The Tampere Main Library is an illustrative example of Raili and Reima Pietiläs’ play with architectural metaphors. Its common nickname ‘Metso’ (meaning capercaillie a.k.a. woodland grouse, Tetrao urogallus) suggest that the building resembles a giant bird seen from above. On the other hand, Reima Pietilä mentioned that the spiral form was also inspired by Celtic bronze clasps, cosmic symbolism and the 1910s expressionist architecture.
The Pietiläs received the commission after winning an open competition in 1978. The sculptural building stands out distinctly in the gridiron plan of the Tampere city centre. A curved canopy leads to a circular entrance hall, around which the main spaces are located in a spiral formation. The hall is covered by a dome with an axis tilted 12 degrees, in the same way as the Earth. Respectively, the fan-shaped lending hall has vaults of different sizes. The structure is a combination of precast arches and concrete shells cast on site.
The materials – concrete, granite, copper and glass – are largely the same as in the Dipoli building, completed 20 years earlier. However, the detailing is much more refined, thus giving the library a more conventional look. The library was restored in 2015–17 by Lasse Kosunen Architects.
Text: Kristo Vesikansa
Reima and Raili Pietilä’s entry for the Tampere Main Library architectural competition, held in 1979, was titled “Cooing Images”. The sculptural, anthropomorphic forms of the design were derived from the bird species Tetrao urogallus, the black grouse, in Finnish ‘metso’, which is associated with strong mythological powers in Finnish folklore. The Pietiläs’ original, organic architecture created much controversy within the professional circles, and the new library building was widely considered as too eccentric, costly and self-referential. Today, Metso Library has become a symbol and a much-loved landmark in the city of Tampere.
The text is an extract from the chapter ‘Mating Calls’ of Mind-Building, Finland’s exhibition at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.