Helsinki has entered a “new era of libraries” with the completion of Oodi, the Helsinki Central Library that not only serves as a new central point for the city’s public library network but also an award-winning public space with a movie theater, multipurpose hall and more in the heart of the Finnish capital.

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exterior entrance under wood canopy

Designed by local architectural practice ALA Architects, Oodi is the largest public library in the Helsinki metropolitan area and marks the celebratory project of the 100th anniversary of the independence of Finland when it opened in December 2018. In addition to an eye-catching, undulating design, the library follows passive energy principles for extreme energy-efficient performance that reaches near Zero Energy Building (nZEB) status.

black spiral staircase
workshop with long black desks

Spanning an area of 17,250 square meters, Oodi consists of library facilities, meeting rooms, group working spaces, a maker space, a living lab, recording studios, a photography studio, editing rooms, offices, a cafe, restaurant, movie theater, auditorium, multi-purpose hall, exhibition facilities and information booths.

Related: Urban waste is upcycling into an adorable, beetle-shaped micro library on wheels

stepped concrete seating
library with shelves of book and dark couch

The library is divided into three distinct levels: an “active” ground floor, a “peaceful” upper floor that houses the “Book Heaven” and an enclosed in-between “Attic” volume with more specific functions housed inside flexible, irregularly shaped rooms, nooks and corners. To accommodate a large volume of people — the library is expected to attract 10,000 visitors per day and 2.5 million visitors per year — the ground floor has been engineered as a column-free public space.

library with green and white chairs
library room with glass walls revealing views of Parliament

To ground the contemporary building into its surroundings, the architects constructed Oodi with locally sourced materials, including the 33-millimeter-thick Finnish high-quality spruce cladding used in the prefabricated wooden facade. Algorithm-aided parametric design models guided the design and manufacturing of the complex curved geometry. Passive solar design principles, highly efficient building systems and building information modeling has helped keep the library’s energy demands to a minimum.

aerial view of tan library exterior with undulating white roof
aerial view of tan library in a city

“The library will enliven and diversify the new urban environment created in the Töölönlahti area,” ALA Architects said. “It will offer activities and experiences for all ages. There will be plenty of spaces that enable people to gather and spend time together, free of charge. The role of the library’s clients will evolve from passive media users to active agents, participants and content producers. As a non-commercial open public space, the new Central Library will act as Helsinki residents’ common living room, work space and learning environment.”

+ ALA Architects

Photography by Tuomas Uusheimo and Iwan Baan via ALA Architects