Read between the compositional lines

Oodi, the new Helsinki central library, has proven to be extremely popular with Helsinki residents and visitors alike. Since its opening in December 2018, the building had welcomed its one-millionth visitor by March.


People visit to spend time, not just to borrow and return books – the ‘Urban Workshop’ is crowded continuously, and the rentable meeting rooms and halls are frequently fully booked. Oodi perfectly fulfils its function as a no-threshold community centre, open to all. What’s more, the building also has one of the best terraces in town to enjoy the summer sun.

Oodi truly represents the new era of libraries. The building in the heart of Helsinki, only a couple of minutes’ walk from the central railway station, consists almost entirely of public space and offers a wide selection of services – mostly free of charge. It is the new central point for the city’s impressive public library network, and its design divides the functions of the building into three distinct levels; an active ground floor, a peaceful upper floor and an enclosed in-between volume containing the more specific functions.

The building opens directly to the surrounding cityscape dissolving the border between indoor and outdoor areas. Outside, the wooden front facade arches over the ground floor as a dramatic bridge-like structure and the resulting column-free lobby space is suitable for all kinds of events. The massive entrance canopy forms a covered outdoor area and allows the building’s functions to expand to the square. The middle floor consists of flexible rooms, nooks and corners inhabiting the spaces between the trusses of the bridge structure. These enclosed spaces are designed to accommodate group working areas, recording studios, editing rooms and the Urban Workshop with such equipment as 3D printers, laser cutters, soldering irons and sewing machines for visitor use.

On the top floor, the best features of a traditional library meet the most recent technologies. The open space is topped with a cloud-like undulating ceiling. The serene atmosphere invites visitors to read, learn and relax. The top floor also offers unobstructed panoramic views of the city centre through the floor-to-ceiling windows and from the large terrace on top of the canopy.

The office and logistic spaces are kept to a minimum on the public floors to maximise the accessible nature of the library. The administrative and storage functions of the Helsinki Public Library remain at the main library in the nearby Pasila district. The book circulation relies on HelMet, the e-service of the Helsinki Metropolitan Area Libraries, with 3.4 million works that can be reserved online and picked up from and returned to any of the 63 public libraries or six bookmobiles in the area.

The spatial concept has been executed by building Oodi as an inhabited bridge spanning over 100m over the open ground floor space. Two massive steel arches support the bridge structure, which consists of steel trusses and beams, tensioned together with a reinforced concrete slab. This innovative solution has enabled the column-free interior spaces and the possible construction of a future road tunnel crossing underneath the building. Secondary steel trusses support the cantilevering balcony and roof canopy asymmetrically from the arch structure.

Oodi has been built using local materials and with climate conditions in mind. The wooden facades are produced from pre-fabricated spruce modules, and the complex curved geometry was designed and manufactured using algorithm-aided parametric 3D-design methods. Detailed analysis of facade performance informed the environmental solutions and helped in minimising the requirement for mechanical, environmental control systems. The glass facades allow for large amounts of daylight in the public areas, while the optimisation of building services has enabled the flexibility of the spatial arrangements. Furthermore, the energy consumption level of Oodi is that of a ‘nearly Zero Energy Building’ (nZEB) – its estimated life span being 150 years.

Share this article

Login to post comments

About us

Future Constructor & Architect is a specification platform for architects and building contractors, which focuses on top-end domestic and commercial developments.

As well as timely industry comment and legislation updates, the magazine covers recent projects and reviews the latest sustainable building products on the market. Subscribe here.

Privacy policy

Latest updates


Sign up below to receive our weekly building product updates e-newsletter and our monthly digital magazine editions from FC&A via email: