The Helsinki Central Library is a building that completes a larger whole, a kind of campus for the cultural and political life restated inside the parliament building and by a series of 'houses' for music, dance, theater, sculpture, and painting that have been designed as free-standing buildings. The project opts for a similar choice: another background structure. On the elevation facing the park and, further on, the Parliament, it separates the building into two masses to house a covered urban arcade that makes it possible for passers-by to cross the area from the south to the north, while providing a privileged (and protected) viewpoint.
The Helsinki Central Library is envisioned as a self-sufficient island of cultural life, rather than a library. It stands as a mute, opaque glass, urban iceberg that, at night, turns into an over-scaled urban lamp able to illuminate, literally and metaphorically, the entire Helsinki cultural district. This relationship between a practically mute exterior and a section loaded with surprises is typical manifestation of bare architecture. The project is about designing a mass without mass that could serve as both a lookout point and as a background. HCL is a neutral building, a background without a background, but with its own depth. A block of milled ice hides a super rich architectural section of activities, from reading to watching videos, singing, recording, walking, performing, exhibiting, visiting, eating, meeting, gathering, educating oneself, or taking a sauna.
Various architectural promenades are possible within the building, which, though seemingly monolithic toward the exterior by day, is transformed into a blazing urban lamp in the evening or during the dark daytime hours, which are more frequent in Helsinki than elsewhere. Five different buildings/programs, whose functions are reflected in the section and in the profile of the roofing, are aligned along the longitudinal axis of the building block, which contains these five 30 x 30 meter spaces within a lot of 150 x 30 meters or a rectangle with a 1:5 ratio. One can cross or walk through the building in different directions, using a series of ramps that rotate around the main square, or around the reading room, to flow into, along different routes, a large romantic garden with a pavilion that is on the roof of the infrastructure, or tip of the 'iceberg.'
c-b-a provided architectural service, phase 1 to 5, interacting with structural and mechanical engineers to define the technical components of the project.
c-b-a is an acronym that stands for context of bare architecture. The practice aims to find the bare life of architectural form, namely a form stripped of the prevailing rhetoric of the day