Earlier this week, we published the winners of the highly popular Helsinki Central Library competition. One of the five entries recognized with an Honorable Mention is the proposal Through the Looking Glass which is conceptualized around the idea of a "building like a bookcase." The design was a collaboration between French architecture firms AAKAA and MARS Architectes.
Project Description from the Architects:
The traditional library is the container of a precious and invisible cognition. It resemble a vault whose boundaries seem jealously kept hermetic to the world. This fortress appears to protect its sacred and timeless spaces from an invasive exterior. The vast and silent distances it holds paralyze the pleasure of exchanging, their immensity affects the simplicity of a gesture to the other.
We dream of a knowledge escaping from its fortifications, reaching the town in a mutual desire of communion and generosity: a library in the city, a city in the library.
The national library of Helsinki is a town-scale shelf, always visible and offered. A superposition of plateaus, like new worlds to discover, invest and transform. The different programs scatter all over these virgin spaces: objects of various sizes and shapes, they represent an inner richness open towards the surrounding city. They are an invitation for meeting, sharing, learning and mixing.
On each plan expands a specific universe in harmony with the programs it hosts. The density, diversity and sequences of these objects laid on the shelves create surprises, the activity we can detect arouses desire.
The library is to be built on an exceptional site in the heart of Helsinki. Near the central station, facing the parliament, opening on a wide garden divided by lakes, the site extends along a frontier between town and nature, materiality and fantasizing, velocity and strolling.
The shelf is adjusted toward a federative plaza: a new heart for the city, confluent place of the emblematic buildings surrounding it. The plaza and library penetrate each other, share a space of encounting and potentiality, magnetize the urban ebb and flow.
Facing the railways, the other side of the project reveals a rich inlaid furniture, kindles curiosity by subtle swivels of the panels composing its façade. Behind those mysteriously on-the-jar doors grows the circulation loops of the library, journey through the structure of the building, communion well between universes.
Stretching out in front of the heart of the city, a gigantic mirror delineates both parts of the construction, vanishes the scission between the contemplative and the active. The circulation space, behind the mirror, remains invisible from the plaza: between the suspended shelves, through the volumes of the objects, looms a virtual panorama of Helsinki. Beyond the library, across it, plans fly toward this familiar and unreal expanse, anatopical fragments of landscape, sky and urbanity.
The first crossing over the mirror is a dive in a feeble-light world wrapping furtive brightness, a route winding through an ancient machinery rooted in movement. Before crossing back the illusion and enter in the limitless universes of plateaus.
On each level emerges a space of possibilities: a modularity of arrangements and assembly of programs according to the events and evolutions of the project.
The journey on each plan confronts to a particular density and dimension: the different urban scales of program-objects is an immersion into spatial experiments from cities and landscapes, constantly confronted to human dimension and evocative power of reality.
In hollows resulting from the tenseness games between those masses, come up spaces favorable for openness and dialog, focus and work, meditation and daydream: oasis of hidden intimacy, felted cocoons of activity, imaginary diving-board to the garden and plaza.
The mirror gives views to the unseen, the event soon to happen. The area duplicates, abolishing the limit of reality, overstepping the habits of understanding: it plunges us in sensing an unconfined space, headed on both sides toward the city, the light and the sky.
Check also the image gallery below for plenty of drawings and diagrams.