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helsinki central library

alonso + sosa 

competition -  unbuilt

+ infinite monkeys?


A book is more than a sum of letters or a set of pages. Although the infinite monkey theorem may tell us that a million monkeys with typewriters and unlimited time at their disposal would eventually reproduce the complete works of Shakespeare, and even combinatorial mathematics confirms this as an absolute logical certainty, we know that out of all the infinite combinations only the creative spirit is capable of constructing a concrete world from letters and that, as a corollary of this, and accepting the infinite monkey theorem, only the human spirit is capable of identifying work worthy of consideration. The case is very much to the point in a world in which the amount of material published on the Internet may not be infinite, but almost seems to be. Paradoxically, in this new world, the more information is in circulation, the greater the need for the critical spirit of culture.


Similarly, a building is not a sum of floors and walls but the construction of a particular idea and a specific time. And if that time is a time of de-hierarchizing, of an abundance of information, of browsing rather than directed searching and of creation rather than aseptic information, then the construction of that space will be de-hierarchized, reorientable, open… in short, to stay with the simile of letters, rewritable, recodifiable … more palimpsest than book …



+ overlapping landscapes


It is a great opportunity! to have the chance to design a library in the largest public space in the city centre, right in front of the parliament! To have the chance to show the citizens of Helsinki, reading, surfing the internet, listening to music, sipping a coffee, playing the piano, or just playing, just across from the heart of the country’s political life (and this is surely no coincidence) on the other side of the new park of Töölönlahti.


We especially like to imagine the intense visual relationship between the parliament and the library, between the space of governance and the space of culture; and also, from the architectural perspective, between the massive and timeless quality of the parliament building and the open, diverse, cultured lightness of the library: the two buildings embody different yet complementary forms of the same democratic model.


In light of this, we opt for a library in which the key concept is one of overlapping activity landscapes: interleaved platforms accommodating a variety of activities.


There is no surface more versatile and open to change than the landscape, the ground. We are the product of our landscape:  the relationship between cultivation and culture is by no means casual. We want the library to be an ordered superposing of landscapes for culture.


The ranges of uses in the programme are laid out on overlapping landscapes as fields of diverse activity: horizontal platforms and inclined planes. The section shows a way of understanding the contemporary space as open, overlapping, non-hierarchical… as do the façades.


The building is a sensitive superposing of irregular platforms for activity whose folds and double- or triple-height spaces generate the series of proposed milieus. We imagine these folds and voids as the features of a landscape, the plains, rocky slopes and valleys in which the activities take place.






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