Culture Club Helsinki

artikkelikuva: Culture Club Helsinki

Photo: ALA Architects

Culture is deeply integrated into the DNA of any true city – and Helsinki is showing the way with the launch of Amos Rex art museum and the new city centre library, Oodi. Both projects are great examples of how culture can stay relevant in the age of social media and ever-shortening attention spans.

Designed by Finnish architects JKMM, Amos Rex opened its doors in August – and found a seemingly endless line of people on the sidewalk waiting to get in. Months later, the situation is still the same: people are queuing up to get the goods on the cultural newcomer.

Photo: Tuomas Uusheimo

Principle architect Aimo Jaaksi says that the museum has really mobilized large numbers of people; and, to boot, also international media has been swooning about the museum, with such stalwart players as BBC and The Guardian tipping their hat to the project.

Photo: Tuomas Uusheimo

“There was something here that has just clicked right away,” says Jaaksi, while admitting to being a “little surprised” by the museum’s popularity. As the first ten weeks saw 140,000 visitors to the museum – a new record in Finland – it is clear that Jaaksi and his crew have really hit a homerun with this one.

Going Deep
The entrance to Amos Rex is through Lasipalatsi (“glass palace”), a distinguished 1930s Functionalist pavilion comprising restaurants, shops, the Bio Rex cinema and an open square behind it. All the newbuild gallery spaces of Amos Rex, however, are underground.

“It was really the only viable option for us to go underground,” explains Jaaksi.

Photo: Yiping Feng and Ling Ouyang

JKMM worked with the City planners to determine how Lasipalatsi Square would remain as an important civic space within Helsinki while also allowing the public to enjoy Amos Rex’s only visible new built elevation, its roofscape. The solution came in the form of highly sculptural roof lights that also address the challenge of bringing daylight into the subterranean exhibition spaces. The roof lights create a new topography, their gently rolling forms playing on the idea of an urban park in keeping with the integrity of the square.

Photo: ALA Architects

“This way we’re not totally filling up the square with new construction, and, on the other hand, are letting people know of the museum’s existence in some manner,” Jaaksi says.

Photo: Tuomas Uusheimo

Let There Be Light
Inside the gallery spaces, visitors looking up to the generous steel-framed concrete skylights will feel connected to the city through JKMM’s carefully considered views opening out to the street-level above. The architects felt it to be especially important for visitors to experience a sense of place, to feel located in a specific part of the city, even when they are six meters below ground.

From a museum design point of view, the structure of the large domed skylights has enabled JKMM to shape a column-free 2,200 square meter exhibition hall. There is no doubt that curators will find this a delightfully flexible space in which to mount exhibitions.

Asmo Jaaksi comments that integrating one of Finland’s architecturally pioneering 1930s buildings – Lasipalatsi – as part of the Amos Rex project was “a moving experience”.

“By adding a bold new layer to Lasipalatsi, we feel we are connecting past with present.”

Ode to Books
A stone’s throw (or two) away from Amos Rex, we find Helsinki Central Library Oodi which opened on 5 December 2018, on Independence Day eve. Oodi, a winner of a past architectural competition, is a striking building with its glass and steel structures and wooden facade, its design a combination of traditional and contemporary flavors. The energy-efficient library is an impressive calling card for Finnish architecture and fits its surroundings like a glove.

Photo: Tuomas Uusheimo

ALA Architects is responsible for the architectural planning. Antti Nousjoki from ALA Architects observes that Oodi will be “one of the freest buildings” in Helsinki (or even in the Nordic Countries) where the visitor can do many things and take initiative in what they want to do.

“Oodi is a constantly learning and developing tool for those living in or visiting Helsinki,” Nousjoki says.

Culture Superhub
The library building in the heart of Helsinki consists almost entirely of public space and will offer a wide selection of services, becoming the new central point for the city’s impressive public library network. The design divides the functions of the library into three distinctive levels: an active ground floor, a peaceful upper floor, and an enclosed in-between volume containing more specific functions.

This concept has been developed into an arching form that invites people to utilize the spaces and services underneath, inside and on top of it. The resulting building is truly an inspiring and highly functional addition to the urban life of Helsinki and the Töölönlahti area.

Writer: Sami J. Anteroinen

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