Finland’s library culture is on display at the Venice Architecture Biennale from 26 May to 25 November.

Oodi promises to transform the way we think about public spaces and libraries

A new central library will open in the Finnish capital in December 2018 that promises to transform the way we think about public spaces and libraries. Finland’s library culture is on display at the Venice Architecture Biennale from 26 May to 25 November.

State-of-the art libraries like Oodi, the new Helsinki Central Library, are not only a key element in the international renowned Finnish education system but also design attractions in themselves. Designed by ALA Architects, Oodi showcases Finnish wood construction and modern architecture, setting the trend for the libraries of the future. CNN has even named Oodi one of the most highly anticipated new buildings of 2018.

Oodi will be a non-commercial public space open for everyone, proudly taking its place in the node of parliamentary and cultural institutions. The 10,000-square-metre building has been designed together with the residents of Helsinki to ensure that it corresponds to their needs as well as possible. In addition to traditional library services, Oodi will offer workshops with 3D printers and sewing machines, diverse workspaces, a cinema, a game room and music studios.

Finns are among the world’s most enthusiastic users of public libraries; the population of 5.5 million people borrows close to 68 million books a year. Indeed, Finland was named the world’s most literate nation by the UN in 2016.

“Not only will we open a new-world class central library this year, we have also renewed our commitment to open knowledge, culture and the arts through our new city strategy. Our vision for Helsinki is to be a global leader in providing the tools for open and participatory democracy – the right to knowledge, the right to education and the right to public space regardless of one’s age, gender, race or social standing,” says Jan Vapaavuori, Mayor of Helsinki.

Finnish library culture on display at the Venice Architecture Biennale

Oodi and Finnish library culture and architecture are currently on display at the Venice Architecture Biennale, which runs from 26 May to 25 November 2018. The Mind-Building exhibition at the Pavilion of Finland explores the development of Finnish library architecture over the years, from the country’s first public library in 1881 to the opening of Oodi in December 2018.

Mind-Building rests on the idea of the public library as a case study of modern monumentality. The exhibition considers libraries as buildings that remind us of the values of civic society and the power of enlightenment. The exhibition at the Pavilion of Finland and its library theme have attracted a lot of international media attention, including positive previews in The Guardian, CNN and Monocle. Both Wallpaper and the Financial Times have named Mind-Building one of the highlights of this year’s biennale.

"We are delighted by the great reception that the exhibition has already received. Public libraries capture people's imaginations as key places of learning and sharing. Investing in their great architecture makes libraries stand the test of time, giving us buildings we love and are proud of. In Finland, this has been the case for more than 100 years. Helsinki Central Library Oodi will be the next great chapture, a pulsating heart for the Finnish capital," says Hanna Harris, director of Archinfo Finland and Mind-building’s commissioner.

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Venice Architecture Biennale