by Jerry ElengicalApr 11, 2022
JKMM Architects has retrofitted a 1980s library in the city of Kirkkonummi in Finland, exemplifying in its rational architecture how libraries can also be vibrant, multipurpose structures that retain their core of spaces built for reading and learning. Named Fyyri, the copper-clad structure faces a medieval stone church, around which the Finnish town was built. A 50-metre-long sheltered terrace overlooks the churchyard, establishing a fresh relationship with the neighbouring religious structure.
The copper shingles cladding of the new library relates back to the region’s maritime heritage and also works well to acquire heat, to combat the predominantly subarctic climate of Finland. It also mirrors the adjacent church’s copper roof and was chosen for the long-lasting and subtly playful quality it brought, making the building more interesting and inviting. The concept thus centered around absorbing the old library, extending, and injecting well-lit, crafted spaces unified by a copper skin. Together with the church, and the nearby open market, the adaptive reuse project becomes the city’s new civic centre, catering to its 40,055 inhabitants.
Built for the municipality of Kirkkonummi, the 4,700 sqm building is built across four floors and represents a new generation of Finnish libraries, where its unusual shape is attributed to the original 1980s library and its triangular footprint. “The legacy of the library as an important public institution in Finland and the role of reading in Finnish society were on our minds from the very start,” relays JKMM Architects.
“Libraries are no longer solely about books, but about sharing knowledge and experiences through multiple channels. This phenomenon has changed their typology, turning them into contemporary places for finding inspiration, learning new things vis-à-vis reading as well as interactive activities, like sophisticated community halls. This is why Finns today refer to libraries as public living rooms,” says Teemu Kurkela, founding partner at JKMM Architects.
“This one is about reading too, naturally, but also about encouraging reading for pleasure, learning and research. However, unlike traditional libraries focused on just books, the new generation of Finnish libraries are much wider in their scope. It becomes a hub for different types of communal activities. Here, this change is very much understood as the library being less like an institution and more like a service. These also become meeting places for people who would like to spend their free time hanging out here, and not necessarily study,” he continues.
The Helsinki-based design practice also carried out the interiors for the project and mentions that the remodelled library employed the existing concrete structure, whose volume was doubled. A large variety of accommodation for the community was introduced, such as rooms for toddler group activities, youth clubs as well as exhibition areas and spaces for events and performances. The café at the ground level is fitted with a 198 sqm reading lounge that dedicates itself to newspapers and periodicals.
JKMM reveals that the previous city library was a pared-down building, very functional in nature, and in many ways, its simplicity made it ideal for the adaptive reuse. “For a non-architect, it can be hard to tell where the existing architecture finishes and the new one begins. This type of fluid integration was a key element in our design approach and our interiors team worked well in using fabric and other materials, like slated timber as well as carefully placed lighting to create this type of cohesiveness,” shares Kurkela.
The Finnish way of meticulous detailing and minimalism is followed inside Fyyri’s reading rooms as well as its exterior, respecting their tradition of libraries ennobling books and learnings through crafted design. The interior design comprises bespoke lighting with brass fittings that foster warmth and contrasts well with concrete, timber and upholstering. Brass is also used at the new entrances and hand railings, inviting and intuitively leading visitors through the areas. Kurkela further adds, “Today, brass is all the more appreciated as a material for its inherently anti-bacterial properties but when designing the building, we wanted a finish that would contrast with the concrete surfaces that dominate the architecture".
The library’s design is influenced by its surrounding coastal landscape, especially the tonality of the interiors. Rhythmic fair-faced concrete posts and beams dominate the main reading hall, where natural light filters through this framework, where mesmerising patterns are created, akin to “daylight rippling through a forest of trees”. The colour palette introduces hues that are ideal for making the building feel warm in the stark and cold winter months. The furniture has been selected to enable the library to feel suited to both informal, relaxed occupation as well as more formal, focused activities. “It was important to make different age groups feel at home inside the library,” explains JKMM.
Subdued colours and soft materials like wool and felt upholstering reference their cold local weather and surrounding nature. JKMM Architects also collaborated with Finnish artist Petri Vainio to create an in-situ art piece in the ceiling of the main entrance lobby that represents a bed of reeds. “Emphasis has been given to the role of fitted furniture in continuing the architectonic qualities of the building form. Slatted timber walls and ceilings also feature in a way that blurs the division between the hand of architect and that of the interior designer,” adds Kurkela.
JKMM’s interior architect Tiina Rytkonen says, “Fyyri’s interior was designed to be welcoming and intimate in a way that enables everyone to find their rightful home in the building. By reusing the 80s structure, the interior also has the sort of unanticipated spaces that come with working with older structures. There are cosy spaces and hideaways too perfect for children’s stories”.
Fyyri’s communal and non-commercial quality becomes integral in creating “a civic foundation that is about solidarity and well-being for Kirkkonummi as it grows to accommodate more inhabitants including a new wave of Helsinki commuters.”
Location: Kirkkonummi, Finland
Program: Library, event spaces, offices, café
Area: 4,700 sqm
Client: Municipality of Kirkkonummi
Year of completion: 2020
Architecture and Interiors: JKMM Architects