Oodi is for Everyone: Helsinki Central Library
Helsinki is currently on our radar here at Casper & Casper, with Helsinki Fashion Week’s emphasis on sustainability capturing our attention and admiration. Fashion is not the only innovation in the Finnish capital: Oodi, Helsinki’s newest library in the CBD, unites architecture and community, designed specifically to create a central hub of learning and socialisation.
Oodi opened its doors to the public in December of last year and has since been the destination for thousands of visitors every day. Designed by Helsinki’s own ALA Architects, the library’s skeleton is a 100-metre long arching bridge of reinforced concrete. This ensures that the ground level is column-free, facilitating a wide, open space with no visual obstructions, and serves to maintain the building’s stability in the face of a future underground tunnel project. Built using local materials, the exterior showcases a gorgeous spruce façade that will patina over time into a deeper, richer natural hue. Oodi’s low energy consumption makes it a nearly Zero Energy Building (nZEB), highlighting the importance of sustainability in the design process: ALA made every decision in accordance with the present and future needs of the city, ensuring that the library has both purpose and longevity.
Oodi is named after the Finnish word for “ode,” aptly serving as an ode to the public community. The library is designed specifically with public accessibility in mind and is comprised of three diverse levels to serve all communal needs. Situated opposite the Finnish parliament, the library’s ground floor is an extension of the Kansalaistori public square, with floor-to-ceiling glass windows keeping the building open and accessible. A wooden canopy hovers over part of the square to shelter outdoor events, which doubles as a terrace for the third floor. The library is open seven days a week, comprising a welcoming public space available for all.
The first and third floors are situated below and atop the bridge structure respectively, while the second floor is a maze of flexible, irregularly shaped rooms that fit around the bridge’s internal supports. Each level addresses varying needs: the ground floor is a noisy public space with a café and cinema, while the enclosed second floor offers recording studios, craft rooms, and events spaces. The third floor, encased by glass windows that offer a 360-degree view of the surrounding city, is nicknamed “book heaven,” a quiet area of bookshelves and reading nooks that allows peaceful reflection and relaxation. No matter what visitors are looking for, the library has a perfect match.
Oodi is a visually striking beacon for communal learning, offering a central social space for citizens and tourists alike. The meticulous attention paid to accessibility and diverse purposes culminates in an innovative community centre that expands the services a library can offer, and we at Casper & Casper are inspired by the focus on social learning. If you find yourself in Helsinki for the fashion week or otherwise, we encourage you to visit Oodi and experience the beauty for yourself.