Helsinki, Finland 2012. Public Library
Steel and wood structure with concrete and glass envelope system.

In collaboration with OKB Architecture + Construction, RSE Associates, Inc. (structural engineering), GLUMAC (energy consultants) and Mott MacDonald (mechanical engineering).


If libraries were like sedimentary rocks, where layers of knowledge accumulated over time, libraries of the 21st century are like igneous rock in which different mediums of knowledge and learning are fused into a granular heterogeneous whole.

This change is evident in the competition brief for this library. Of the 10,000 net sqm, only 25% is dedicated to book storage and reading, and the remainder of the area offers places for performances, meeting, production and learning. This library is a hub of knowledge, where different people, communities and constituencies can come together. Our proposal created a formal language of many coming together to create a new, dynamic whole.
Our design is based on a regular aggregation of three-dimensional dodecahedrons. This geometry creates formal variation while maintaining the standardization of its structural and cladding elements. The aggregation is varied to define three program volumes – one for collections, a second for events, and a third for learning and doing – that are linked by a continuous lobby space. Height limitations give the project’s faces contrasting characters. To the east it is tall and smooth. The west face steps and corrugates to address the landscape.

Dodecahedron shaped atrium spaces create visual and physical links between the three main volumes of the building.  They are conduits for the circulation of people, light and air.

James Khamsi FIRM exploded axo-01
james khamsi FIRM helsinki lobby

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