Unpacking Finland's Birthday Gift to Itself

09/26/2018 By Kadie Yale

Described by many as Finland's birthday gift to itself, the Oodi Library, located across from Parliament in Helsinki, is expected to be completed in November 2018 – just in time for the celebration of Finland's 100th year as a country.

Over 100 meters long, the expansive three-floor library will act as the city’s "living room." Like many urban centers in the world, personal space is decreasing, so the importance of the library is more than to provide a place for locals to rent books. Oodi will stand as a public amenity, housing event space, a restaurant, meeting rooms and a place for exhibitions.

A Love Note to Finland in Helsinki

The Oodi Library is also a love note to the people of Finland. It utilizes nearly 130 square cubic meters of wood across the exterior and at least that same amount for the flooring, ceiling and surfaces in the interior. There are also expansive glass curtain walls decorated with white dot details on the inside and outside of the double-pane to mirror a snowfall, as well as round ceiling tunnels on the third floor to pull natural light into the interior. Together, the features Oodi embody the characteristics of Finland

Throughout Helsinki Design Week, the nationalistic characteristics of Finland were apparent in the use of materials – in particular, white woods reminiscent of the local forests and glass to allow natural lighting into buildings – innovative lighting designs and bright patterning on textiles. For the island country, connection to the natural world is paramount, as are the pop designs made famous through Marimekko that provide folk art-related happy moments during the dreary winter days. (Marimekko translates to "happy dress.")

Despite being only partially completed when we received a tour, the Oodi Library has already become a fixture in Finnish architecture and design. Across from the Romanesque Parliament building and nestled next to the stunning opera house, Oodi captures attention, even when surrounded by construction apparatuses that are filled with the neon yellow the workers don as they scale the building.

Helsinki's Architectural History in the Making

The design is one that can be expected to appear in publications and architectural books for years to come. Even as it lay mostly-bare, an overwhelming feeling of joy and contentment swept over me, particularly on the third floor which will house the stacks. The glass curtain walls on either side provide not only natural light, but expansive views of the city. The white ceiling undulates and is dotted with the round skylight tunnels which makes one feel as if they're in a comforting and cozy home in a hill. (I will admit, I definitely felt like a hobbit.) And the warm, light wood that was being installed made you feel as if you weren't indoors, but, rather, out in the woods.

The Oodi Library in Helsinki features few corners.

What's more: Oodi is mostly devoid of sharp edges, a majority of corners being relegated to the second floor, which is filled with meeting rooms and maker spaces, providing oft-needed places for creating – whether that be the physical act of creating artwork or brainstorming with others.

New ideas won't be hard to imagine at Oodi, embodying the aesthetic of Helsinki and Finland at large.

An interesting issue the designers came across when the building's construction was already underway was that the white metal siding that will eventually hold the wooden planks couldn't register on the 3-D imaging software. We were told that this unintended issue had to potential to push the project open date back as each of the several dozen pieces spanning the length of the building needed to first be painted black, scanned by the software, then eventually painted back to white before the wood paneling can be installed.

More from Helsinki ► Universal Design in the Age of Accessibility

► Marimekko Behind-the-Scenes Factory Tour