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Helsinki Central Library Competition Picks ALA Architects’ Käännös as Winner
Posted: Tuesday, June 18, 2013 |

The international architectural competition for the design of the Helsinki Central Library (previously on Bustler) has announced the entry "Käännös" by Finnish firm ALA Architects as the winning proposal. The jury selected Käännös unanimously and described the entry as "impressive and casually generous."

A Second Prize was not awarded, and the entries ”Liblab” by Playa Architects and "Kasi” by Verstas Architects were awarded a shared Third Prize. Additionally, five Honorable Mentions were awarded.

First Prize:

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First Prize: "Käännös" by ALA Architects

1st Prize: Entry no. 149, pseudonym “Käännös”

Entry authors: Arkkitehtitoimisto ALA Oy (author copyright), Juho Grönholm, Antti Nousjoki, Janne Teräsvirta, Samuli Woolston
Design Team (Stage 1): Aleksi Niemeläinen (chief assistant), Martin Genet, Jyri Tartia, Vladimir Ilic, Julius Kekoni, Auvo Lindroos, Pekka Tainio
Design Team (Stage 2): Jussi Vuori (chief assistant), Erica Österlund (chief assistant), Willem Barendregt, Tiina Liisa Juuti, Auvo Lindroos, Pekka Sivula
Critics (Stage 2): Aleksi Niemeläinen, Sampo Ruoppila, Hannu Siren, Kai Wartiainen
Visualization: Petra Grísová, Vizarch.Cz, Josef Veselý, Vizarch.Cz, Vratislav Zíka, Vizarch.Cz
Energy consultant: Paul Dunne, Arup
HVAC Design Team: Paul Dunne, Arup, Susan Cormican, Arup, Luke Stewart, Arup, Mona Holtkoetter, Arup
Structural design: Rory McGowan, Arup, Aidan Madden, Arup, Colm Morrin, Arup
Façade consultants: Anthony McCauley, Arup
Architectural model: Klaus Stolt, Stoltmodels Oy

First Prize:

Click above image to view slideshow
First Prize: "Käännös" by ALA Architects

Jury Assesment of Stage 2:

"The proposal has evolved excellently from Stage 1 and the overall concept is increasingly clearer. The building is confidently connected with its surroundings, while at the same time standing out and taking its place as an important public building. The building is inviting, easy to approach and identity with.

The massing of the building stems excellently from the functions and spaces, fitting them into the context. The exterior wall, which is recessed on the ground level, together with the terrace above it, uniquely and impressively marks the entrance. The public square, which is created beneath the terrace and in front of the main entrance, is successfully linked to the lobby spaces; the events in the exterior spaces become part of the library.

The entrances have been well placed, and it is easy to arrive at the building from all approach directions. The lobby arrangements enable the placement of the library functions immediately in the vicinity of the entrances. In some parts, the lobby is slightly narrow. Placing the multi-purpose hall in connection with the lobby is a successful solution. The adaptability of the totality is excellent."

First Prize:

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First Prize: "Käännös" by ALA Architects

"One of the strengths of the proposal is the rather different moods on the three floors of the building. The ground-floor level is strikingly impressive and attractive. Access from the ground-floor level to the upper floors creates a distinct, yet at the same time surprising, spatial sequence. The impressive main stairs, which connects the main floors, is a memorable element that strengthens the identity of the building. Inter-crossing views between the floors open up through the stairwell openings and the narrow lightwells on the top floor. In places the views could even be more extensive.

The first floor has an intensive and intriguing atmosphere. The floor has a workshop-like character and offers an inspiring center for diverse functions, which conveys ‘doing things’ and ‘activity’. The functions are present in an informal way and are both easily approachable and easy to use. The ceiling height of the floor is slightly too low.

The top floor is beautiful, light-filled and pleasant. Exciting views open up from the spaces into the surrounding scenery. The free forms of the ceiling articulate the space pleasantly. The rising floor surfaces at the gable ends reinforce the spatiality and successfully frame the views of the base level towards the adjacent buildings. Spaces that require silence are naturally placed on the base level, which continues beneath the inclined surfaces."

First Prize:

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First Prize: "Käännös" by ALA Architects

"An extensive terraced area, called “citizens’ balcony”, is linked with the top floor. It adds, from many different viewpoints, a symbolic gesture to the form of the building and beckons the library users to take time to relax.

The proposed building frame system is interesting. No pillars have been shown in the entrance lobby, but rather the upper floors are supported by an enormous steel girder structure. The idea of a large pillarless space is intriguing but cost-wise and technically very challenging. In terms of the choice of materials, the proposal is very stylish. The wood façade supports well the architectonic totality and strengthens the identity of the building. The façade solution is technically challenging but feasible."

First Prize:

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First Prize: "Käännös" by ALA Architects

"The air-conditioning machine rooms have been placed both in the basement floor and in connection with the massive support structures on the first floor, which – despite their somewhat unfavorable location – support the overall concept of the building by skilfully hiding the technology within the bearing structure. The solutions for air-conditioning, sun protection and the utilization of daylight are skilfully executed. The achieved energy efficiency is among the best of the proposals.

The space reservation for the City Center Tunnel has been taken into consideration. On both sides of the tunnel are exit route stairs. The reservation for the ventilation shaft is placed on the lowest floor, north of the tunnel."

First Prize:

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First Prize: "Käännös" by ALA Architects

"The proposal is average in terms of its volume and as regards the floor area the program area falls slightly short.

The architecture of the proposal is of a very high quality, executed with relaxed broad strokes and memorable. The proposal provides excellent premises for the development of a completely new functional concept for the library. The building has a unique appeal and the prerequisites to become the new symbolic building which Helsinki residents, library users, as well as the staff will readily adopt as their own."

First Prize:

Click above image to view slideshow
First Prize: "Käännös" by ALA Architects

Shared 3rd Prize: Entry no. 160, pseudonym “Kasi”

Entry authors (author copyright), VERSTAS Arkkitehdit Oy, Väinö Nikkilä, Jussi Palva, architect SAFA, Riina Palva, architect SAFA, Ilkka Salminen, architect SAFA
Assistants, Stage 1: Aapo Airas, architecture student, Johanna Mustonen, architect SAFA, Miguel Pereira, architect SAFA, Arto Ollila, architecture student, Lauri Virkola, architecture student
Assistants, Stage 2: Aapo Airas, architecture student, Jukka Kangasniemi, architecture student, Johanna Mustonen, architect SAFA, Milla Parkkali, architecture student, Miguel Pereira, architect SAFA, Katri Salonen, assistant
Strucutural design consultant: Tapio Aho, M.Sc. Tech., Ramboll Oy
Energy and HVAC technology consultants: Erkki Immonen, planning director,
HVAC engineer: Hannu Heiskanen, HVAC designer, Insinööritoimisto Maaskola Oy
Landscape design consultant: Milla Hakari, Landscape architect, LOCI Maisema-arkkitehdit Oy
Road and traffic design consultant: Seppo Karppinen, M.Sc. Tech, Lead consultant, Sito Oy
Interior design consultant: Karola Sahi, architect SAFA , AKSA Arkkitehtistudio Karola Sahi
Patination consultant: Pertti Kukkonen, sculptor
Architectural model: Pertti Parmes, Pienoismallitoimisto Pertti Parmes Oy

Shared Third Prize: “Kasi” by Verstas Architects

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Shared Third Prize: “Kasi” by Verstas Architects

Jury Assesment of Stage 2:

"The architectonic concept of the proposal has developed well since Stage 1. The basic solutions for the massing, which were considered good in Stage 1, have been preserved unchanged. The building is well connected to the urban structure in terms of its orientation, outline and openings. A system is proposed for the façade that creates a stylish and appealing appearance for the building. The solution creates variations on the themes of the Stage 1 proposal, but as a solution typology is very different; the articulation of the window surfaces, which previously were horizontal and large in scale, is now divided into smaller parts, which also limits the vistas more.

The building is inviting and easy to approach. The entrances and ground-floor level are excellently highlighted. The intermediate walls of the entrance lobby on the ground floor as well as the ceiling are clad with curved solid wood elements. The created spatial impression is striking and memorable. Functionally, however, the solution weakens the usability of the ground-floor level. In general, it can be said that the proposal’s functional solution is somewhat weaker than it was in Stage 1.

The lobby space is in places too narrow, and the main entrance is to the side in relation to the vertical circulation zone located in the middle of the building. The client facilities placed on the ground floor end up to the side of the entrances. Thus the background zone of client services, as presented now, limits too much the flexibility of the floor as well as the placement of the library functions near the entrances. Placing the cinema and multi-purpose hall in the basement should have led to more openness on the entrance-floor level.

The proposal is spatially confident and informally stylish. The atmosphere in the interior is warm and memorable and the scale is pleasant. The spaces open up well into the surroundings. The varying openings in the intermediate floors create a skilful and appealing spatial sequence and fine diverse vistas between the floors. This leads in places to excessively narrow spaces, which limits usability. On the other hand, it is also good that places with very different character in terms of spatiality and atmosphere are created in the building. A cafe has been placed in the north-west corner on the first floor of the building, which with its rising lounge steps creates an excellent totality. The surrounding landscape scenery has been utilized successfully in the orientation of the spaces, and correspondingly the interior functions are conveyed well out to the exterior spaces. Also the idea of parallel outdoor-indoor stairs leading to the café is excellent, albeit the café terrace is unfortunately small."

Shared Third Prize: “Kasi” by Verstas Architects

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Shared Third Prize: “Kasi” by Verstas Architects

"The main vertical connections and orientation in the building are somewhat uncertain. Particularly on the upper floors, the circulation spaces and connections between the spaces grow unnecessarily large. Orientation is in places awkward.

The proposal is still sketchy in regard to the structures. Pillars have been shown with a very wide span or they have not been shown at all. The proposed, partly hung construction is structurally challenging. Energy efficiency and building technology have been designed confidently, using efficient solutions. The large machine rooms have been naturally placed on the top floor. The utilization of daylight, sun-protection solutions, management of the indoor climate and energy efficiency are all at a good level.

The space reservation for the City Center Tunnel has been taken into consideration. An exit route stairs has been indicated on each side of the tunnel. The ventilation shaft has been proposed north of the tunnel leading all the way to the roof level.

In terms of the floor area, the proposal follows the competition program, and the volume is compact. The architectonic approach of the proposal is of a very high standard, and is impressive and comprehensive. The building clearly stands out in the cityscape as a public building. As a public building, the proposal is somewhat characterized by genericness."

Shared Third Prize: “Kasi” by Verstas Architects

Click above image to view slideshow
Shared Third Prize: “Kasi” by Verstas Architects

Shared 3rd Prize: Entry no. 40, pseudonym “Liblab”

Entry authors: Playa Arkkitehdit Oy (author copyright), Johanna Ojanlatva, architect SAFA, Veikko Ojanlatva, architect SAFA, Tuukka Vuori, architect SAFA
Assistants, Stage 1: Ulla Seppä, architect SAFA, Ulla Kuitunen, architect SAFA, Jukka Kangasniemi, architecture student, Otto Autio, architecture student
Assistants, Stage 2: Ulla Seppä, architect SAFA, Pauliina Kujala, architecture student, Andres Lira Vigneaux, architecture student
3D-modelling: Jarno Vesa, architect
Visualisation, Stage 2: Lumart / Lorenzo Servi, architect
Energy engineering consultant: Johannes Helander, DI / Wise Group Finland Oy
Structural design, Stage 2: Tero Aaltonen, DI / Finnmap Consulting Oy
Architectural model: Alphaform RPI Oy

Shared Third Prize: ”Liblab” by Playa Architects

Click above image to view slideshow
Shared Third Prize: ”Liblab” by Playa Architects

Jury Assesment of Stage 2:

"A distinct, sculptural building, the massing of which is recognizable as a public building, opens up excellently through carefully considered glass surfaces towards the most important directions, namely the Kansalaistori square and Töölönlahti bay. The building takes its place in, and impressively complements, the urban space.

The relationship between the overall mass and the large glass surfaces was better in the Stage 1 proposal. The eaves height has been lowered even too much, and consequently the overall composition loses its strength. Removing one floor has considerably improved the building’s functionality, which now is good.

The perforations of the solid surfaces have in Stage 2 been less than expected. The contrast between the solid wall and large glass surfaces is too strong in the interiors. The appearance of the perforated wall has not been presented in an understandable way in the interior illustrations. The appearance of the street façade is more open due to the new window openings. The overall shape of the building divided opinion: the dark mass and the sharp corner on the Elielinaukio square side were also perceived as frightening and threatening.

The entrances to the building are situated around the middle of the plot. The access route to them from the direction of the Elielinaukio square is easy. The first floor spaces open up well into the surroundings. A covered outdoor space is created in the vicinity of the main entrance.

The entrance floor level has an airy and spacious feel. The required library functions, multipurpose hall, restaurant and café have been placed there. In the basement floor, the group comprised of the cinema, and TV and music facilities functions well. Placed as part of the joint lobby for these spaces is the library’s exhibition space and stage. The spaces complement naturally the other functions on the entrance floor.

The spatial organization works well and the general public can, as was requested, get right up to the window walls. The shape of the openings between the floors and the relationship between them are somewhat ambiguous. The natural circulation between the floors in the Stage 1 proposal has become blurred. It has been replaced by a spiral staircase connecting the floors. The development of the interiors has remained incomplete and their character is not fully evident in the design."

Shared Third Prize: ”Liblab” by Playa Architects

Click above image to view slideshow
Shared Third Prize: ”Liblab” by Playa Architects

"On the third floor are staff workspaces, and next to them is a public sauna and terrace. The sauna is difficult for the general public to access. The sauna-restaurant combination in Stage 1 worked better, and the roof level terraces, with their varied character, were more practical.

The service traffic and the loading spaces in the basement are well functioning. The transport routes for the library collections and the internal routes are good from the point of view of the staff. The spaces are flexible and can be easily monitored. The space reservation for the City Center Tunnel is in order. The compact massing and the solid façades have led to a good result in terms of energy efficiency. The sun shading solution is successful, but the utilization of daylight could be more efficient. The air-conditioning system, including the machine rooms, has been successfully fitted into the building, and the proposed reliable solutions ensure good indoor climate conditions. The most considerable technical shortcoming is the development of the window wall, which is incomplete. The frame construction of the glass walls is not plausible and the wood constructions are clumsy. The floor areas are in accordance with the program and the volume is reasonable.

This is a fine proposal, which, however, does not in all aspects fulfill the expectations set for it in Stage 1 of the competition. Due to the good overall cityscape solution, the building has development potential."

Of the six entries selected for Stage 2 of the competition, an Honorable Mention was awarded to the entry ”The Heartbeat of Helsinki” by Henning Larsen Architects.

Additionally, the jury decided to award Honorable Mentions to four entries from Stage 1:

  • ”Through the Looking Glass” by Mars architectes
  • ”Illuminatio” by TARKA Architectural Studio
  • “Cultural Incubator” by Monica Ponce de Leon
  • ”Helsinki Link” by Kutonotuk

Find also model photos and drawings of the three winning entries in the image gallery below. All images courtesy of Helsinki Central Library competition.

First Prize: First Prize: First Prize: First Prize: Shared Third Prize: “Kasi” by Verstas Architects Shared Third Prize: “Kasi” by Verstas Architects Shared Third Prize: ”Liblab” by Playa Architects Shared Third Prize: ”Liblab” by Playa Architects


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