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Oodi – an ode to the book-loving people of Finland

10.12.2018 Text: Violetta Teetor Photos: Header: Tuomas Uusheimo
Oodi Helsinki Central Library

Oodi is the new central library of Helsinki. It’s wrapped in a cloak of cosy Finnish spruce timber and adorned by a spectacular wavy hat. The building joins forces with the cultural spaces surrounding it. With Sanoma House and Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art on its left and the Helsinki Music Centre on its right.

Piece of great architecture

The unification effect of the architecture is created by ALA Architects, with Juho Grönholm, Antti Nousjoki and Samuli Woolston at the helm. The building fits right in with the purpose for which it was designed. Citizens had as much to say about their wishes and wants as the authorities did, a sign of a healthy collaboration between Finland and its people. It is apt that the building is situated opposite the Finnish Parliament where parliamentarians agreed to this project unanimously.

Helsinki Central Library Oodi

Libraries in Finland

Libraries have always played a role in the lives of the Finnish people. This small population of 5.5 million consume an astonishing 68 million books per year. An activity promoted by the sagacity of the leaders of the newly independent country in the early 20thC. Education and development of the inhabitants was the prime objective and an investment in human capital. This led to Finland’s status of being the most literate country in the world in 2016, an accolade awarded by the United Nations.

Photo: Tuomas Uusheimo

It’s not just about books

Of course Oodi is about books but the space devoted to this only takes up a third of the building. In this tech-savvy country it’s possible to access way beyond the 100 000 books that this library holds, by the mere click of a button. Most of the square metreage is devoted to public space. E.g. a kind of lounge to hang out, meet your friends, catch a movie or record your latest musical rendition. Sewing machines, 3-D printers, ideas for breathing life into discarded objects, exhibitions, pop-ups…

Or simply having a coffee at one of the restaurants are all part of the initiative to bring people together, to galvanise a feeling of belonging and inclusivity, and most of all, to encourage life-long learning. The balcony, overhung on one side by the crest of the wave-like structure of the roof or the dangerously poised lip of a piece of ice, whichever way you’d like to look at it, will be a place to flop into a deck chair, enjoy the sun and take photographs of the city from this special vantage point.

Oodi is a monument to democracy and a showpiece of architecture. It’s also a prize to the users of its corridors from the residents of Helsinki to visitors from further away, to the ever-increasing number of curious tourists exploring this trail blazing, state-of-the-art country.

Photo: Andrey Shadrin

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