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Oodi, Helsinki’s new flagship library (economist.com)
174 points by sohkamyung 33 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 63 comments



I can't read the article, but this is a nice piece which shows the insides pretty well:

https://www.oodihelsinki.fi/en/what-is-oodi/architecture/

It is a really beautiful space, I was there with my child last weekend and shot lots of videos of the various areas. There are trees inside, play-areas for children, and many nooks for reading/resting/chatting.

This link (Finnish) has a brief video showing people cleaning the snow from the roof too, which is a semi-common occurrence in buildings/streets here in Helsinki:

https://www.hs.fi/kaupunki/helsinki/art-2000005998579.html


What an absolutely gorgeous building - thanks for sharing the links. And kudos to Helsinki for undertaking such an ambitious project. One of my fondest memories of raising our kids was taking them to our little branch library every Saturday. If we'd had an Oodi, I never would have gotten them to leave!


Thanks for the main library link. The architecture is beautiful but does anyone agree that from the outside the building looks pretty similar to the building of California Academy Of Sciences?


I had never seen the building so I looked it up https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Academy_of_Sciences In the abstract the undulating roof is similar looking closer shows there are a lot of differences even in where the lumps are located


It was also featured in the NYT's Art & Design section: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/06/arts/design/helsinki-libr...

Quote from Tommi Laitio, an executive director in Helsinki city:

“We often think that things like social cohesion or democracy are just words, but in spaces like these they really come to life,” Mr. Laitio said. “You need some social infrastructure for communities to work. You can’t build them on friendship, or this abstract idea of living together.”


Another nice quote:

'Oodi “fits very well into the Nordic story of how societies work,” Mr. Laitio said. “There are so few of us here, so we have to make sure everyone can develop to their fullest potential.”'

A perspective increasingly lost in Sweden.


What makes you say that? As a Finn I feel that we lag a step behind Sweden in many things. Be it little brother syndrome or something else I think it holds to some truth (e.g. by economic standards)


It seem like Finland to a larger extent is still interested in providing good conditions for its citizens, for example:

* Finland has one of the best school systems in the world. Sweden one of the most deregulated and is average in PISA rankings.

* Finland is one of the few western countries to build a new nuclear power plant. Sweden is set to instead use taxes to deal with climate change while the price of electricity is the highest in a decade.

* While this library was being built they have been arguing about building the privately funded Nobel Center in Stockholm for years.

Finland is also able to take decisions such as working against smoking. This is one of those "nanny state" public health things Nordic countries are known for. In Sweden there are half a dozen commercials for online casinos every commercial break on TV, on billboards and in all the online newspapers.

I can see why especially Stockholm would be alluring, but if you look at the housing market (or outside of Stockholm) it isn't as fun anymore.


I don’t think it’s accurate to call Oodi a library. It’s more of a communal space for citizens and a sort of a playground/hangout for kids. With some books. Maybe I’m a cranky old man but I don’t really enjoy these kind of open spaces. It’s noisy, too relaxed and not geared towards actual studying and working. Libraries in Finland no longer have any expectations for peace and quiet.


Luckily are public libraries not run on gut feelings and personal semantics. The purpose of libraries in Finland is defined by the Library Act, which states that public libraries should provide[0]:

1) equal opportunities for everyone to access education and culture;

2) availability and use of information;

3) reading culture and versatile literacy skills;

4) opportunities for lifelong learning and competence development;

5) active citizenship, democracy and freedom of expression.

You might like a quite place to read, but if society pays it should get more than sleepy reading halls. I find that the fetishising of books and silent library spaces is a nostalgic fantasy championed by people that rarely actually use libraries, while they are unaware that libraries are the most used cultural institutions in many countries. There is not a single good reason to limit libraries to disseminate the printed book as the only document. Other than elitism.

[0] https://www.finlex.fi/en/laki/kaannokset/2016/en20161492.pdf


Since when was studying a 'nostalgic fantasy'?

In the UK, libraries are something like social centres: unemployed people go there to read; retired people read the daily papers; people without the internet at home come to use the computers; children come after school until their parents finish work.

It's important that there are public spaces like that. It's a lifeline for some people.

But most public libraries in the UK are, for those exact reasons, very poor places to study.


>Since when was studying a 'nostalgic fantasy'?

Studying is not a nostalgic fantasy. Giving opinions on how public libraries should be run, without any relation to reality is. If you go through the library act I posted you will find that providing silent study places is NOT an object that Finnish public libraries should fulfil. It makes no sense to criticise public libraries for not providing what they shouldn't provide.People that want silent study places can go to academic libraries.

>retired people read the daily papers; people without the internet at home come to use the computers; children come after school until their parents finish work.

All things that would be less of, if the public library room were to be a silent tomb.

>It's important that there are public spaces like that. It's a lifeline for some people.

Exactly. The nostalgic fantasy I'm criticising carlospwk for is that public libraries are "noisy, too relaxed and not geared towards actual studying". Not really a position that fosters the needs of the diverse population of patrons.


>Exactly. The nostalgic fantasy I'm criticising carlospwk for is that public libraries are "noisy, too relaxed and not geared towards actual studying". Not really a position that fosters the needs of the diverse population of patrons.

I could have maybe worded myself better. I don't really care what people do in a library, I just wish it was silent and peaceful like it was before.


I kind of pounced on your comment, as I'm opposed to a restricted view of libraries. But I think I was a bit too snippy trying to get my point across. I'm sorry, didn't intent to call you out.

I actually had a laugh at myself just after posted my second comment. As had to break up a group of patrons where having a teleconference with multiple laptops, on speaker, in study section. Guess there is a limit even in noisy libraries!


>I find that the fetishising of books and silent library spaces is a nostalgic fantasy championed by people that rarely actually use libraries, while they are unaware that libraries are the most used cultural institutions in many countries.

I don't fetishise books. I welcome e-readers, computers and whatever devices you can use to gather information. It's great that there's a 3D printer and all kinds of facilities. I'm just sad to see one of the last silent public spaces to die off.


In my view libraries are simply evolving with the times, but perhaps I'm not yet quite so old after all. I like the idea that there's a public space for soldering, 3D printing, sowing, or just being.

I wouldn't really make sweeping generalisations on the state of Finnish libraries based on one modern example intended to be different. Besides, if we're going to have yet another library in the centre of Helsinki, why not make it different?

If you need to study the university library is just around the corner. Or the library of the national archives if you prefer a tomb-like silence. Or the one on Rikhardinkatu for the more classic milieu. Choice is good.


In the past few years I've been to public libraries in Espoo, Helsinki and Vantaa. They all have the same modern vibe as Oodi (although less glamorous buildings maybe).

>If you need to study the university library is just around the corner. Or the library of the national archives if you prefer a tomb-like silence. Or the one on Rikhardinkatu for the more classic milieu. Choice is good.

Thanks for these recommendations, I have to check them out. The only problem is that to go to a university library is that they are mostly (afaik) in the city center. Kind of a trek for someone from neighbouring counties.


Noisy? Have you been to the place? Yes, there are spaces inside where talking is allowed and encouraged, but there are many separate study halls where it's dead quiet and you can even book your own sound-proofed room if you want total isolation.


I've been there. In my idealistic grumpy old man world, I'd rather have the main area silent and if you want to have a chat, just book a room :)


Of course they haven't been there, that would defeat the purpose of ranting about something you know nothing about and ultimately don't care about either.


I'm curious, what made you write this comment? What's with the negativity?


Hmm. I feel that. I’m sensing a dichotomy here between understandings of ”library as a place of study” and ”library as a communal place of sharing cultural artefacts”. Since the latter involves a lot of other things besides books and the silence required for deep study thereof, maybe a new word not derived from books (liber->library for English, kirja->kirjasto for Finnish) would indeed be appropriate?

Disclaimer: been to Oodi and think it’s great. I’m not a regular user of libraries in any sense, though. I used to be, 20 years ago, and appreciate the current trend exemplified by Oodi as something perfectly befitting Finnish societal values and ethos as I understand them. Ymmv, of course.


I think those can quite coexist in the same space (especially if said space is a 100M euro building ;)). The library can function as that communal place of shared culture, and host cafés, exhibitions, concerts, rooms for community events, rooms with musical instruments (the facility I make the most use of in my library)... and also quiet study rooms and places to focus without noise or distractions. There is no incompatibility between these two aspects.


I have been in Oodi and there are a bunch of quiet places as well - perhaps not as much as classic libraries, but I had no problem finding a spot.

There are no such expectations since most of the libraries are a bit empty when there are no exams so it makes sense that some of that space is used for other means rather than allocating empty study rooms IMHO.


Oodi is in the most central place in Helsinki. I think it's perfect location for public space library where people and groups can meet and work together.

Helsinki has exceptionally good libraries for quiet studying. If you have a book and need to sit down, read and study, I would recommend National Library, Rikhardinkadun library or Kaisa library. All of them are walking distance from Oodi.


I agree, having visited a couple bigger libraries in a big city many times and there's such uncontested unruliness going on there every time - people talking loud on their phones, people shouting, listening to music on their phone speaker, large groups in communal spaces playing games or hanging out making constant noise.

Granted, these libraries had dedicated study or reading spaces but I guess I prefer the more traditional outlook of a library and it'd be nice if quiet was strictly enforced in libraries and they were not made into some hybrid public communal spaces with books, research and studying as an afterthought but that's just me.


> It’s noisy, too relaxed and not geared towards actual studying and working.

I visited not long after it opened when it was very busy, even then it seemed to me there were a lot of quiet places for studying?


Also it appears to me the same space could be utilized to stock much more books, which in my eye what a library should be continually striving to do. In general what makes libraries great are the size of their stock, the comprehensiveness and accebility of the catalogues and indexes, and presence of help-full librarians.


I was expecting more space for books when I visited Oodi for the first time as well, but I don't think the limited shelf space in this library isn't such a big issue because of the other libraries in the city. The Helsinki region libraries (http://www.helmet.fi/en-US/) all form a single network. You can reserve a book, and collect it at your most convenient branch.


Libraries are less geared towards study now, and more towards offering communal space, but they're still libraries. But it is a shame if they don't have a quieter space available too.


For example, in the 3rd floor the magazines section is right next to children's play area. Potentially noisy location.

https://www.oodihelsinki.fi/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Oodi_...


Oodi is quite hideous from the outside: I haven't generally felt the appeal to walk towards the area. See for yourself: https://ibb.co/jkJ4h1B

But Oodi is also not so much of a library than an indoor public space. That is probably fine and that I think is where libraries are going in general. However, being born decades ago it's libraries I like.

I'll much rather find my "books and crannies" to spend some quality time a few blocks the other way in this old library: https://goo.gl/8sEdSS (more pictures on FourSquare: https://foursquare.com/v/rikhardinkadun-kirjasto/4baa99a3f96...). It's as cramped as homely, quiet, smells of old books, and offers a sense of a place unlike the new showroom of design.


I really don't find it hideous. This definitely looks like the kind of building I'd like to check out.


Honestly it looks like a shopping mall. Shame considering the budget and Finlands rich history of architecture/design.


I hope there would be more shopping mall architecture like this:

https://www.oodihelsinki.fi/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/Oodi_...


Okay i was wrong. I looked at some other pictures and it is okay.


It does look much more attractive from the front though ..


If only you could figure out where the front is. To a pedestrian, it's mostly hundreds and hundreds of meters of desolate concrete wall to walk around the building.


I continue to be curious although happy that libraries are such a topic of interest on HN. (Also sometimes wonder if the interest is based on a romantic fantasy not too related to contemporary reality of libraries). What do people think make libraries so interesting or pleasing to the HN audience?

--a librarian software engineer


I go to my local library once a week every Saturday morning.

They encouraged a chess club which was what got me in the door (shamefully for someone who reads as much as I do I rarely went) and now I use their other services, it's got a nice little cafe attached and upstairs they have a maker space.

It's surprisingly progressive for my local council.

As to why I like the library, it provides useful services beyond lending books (which in the world of Amazon and e-readers isn't enough - however I'm happy to pay taxes towards the people on low incomes been able to check out books), mostly it's the people who run the place, they are almost universally lovely to interact with.


My first experience with Oodi was unfortunate: The only publicly available Wi-Fi network (Stadinetti) blocks all outgoing non-HTTP/HTTPS traffic (SSH, IMAP, etc).

So much for trying to do any remote working or studying for things like AWS at the library without your own 4G connection, unless you're content just reading the docs.


When was this? I haven't had any issues using SSH and IMAP via Stadinetti there (latest 3 days ago).


This was back in December. I tried asking about it, but wasn't able to find any info about what kind of policy they intended to have on their network.

Who knows, maybe I complained enough that they fixed it? :)


Unrelated to the article, but I'm impressed at how many people from Helsinki turned up in the comments.

Small world ..


In many nerdy corners of the Internet there's a definite surplus of Finns relative to the fairly meager total population of our country.


I believe a "Helsinki HN meetup" would be super crowded


Beautiful public space. Reminds me a little of the Halifax Public Library in Canada:

http://halifaxcentrallibrary.ca/galleries/


I find the lack of subtlity in the architecture kind of off-putting, it is as if it wants to be in your face and grab you by your eyeballs. There is a quite grandeur in many building designs that subscribe to an austere concern for functionality.


You might like some of Rick Mather's projects:

http://www.rickmather.com/practice


Legitimately thought this was going to be a code lib but it's a literal library.


Those libraries are here: https://github.com/city-of-helsinki

Including how you make reservations for the rooms in this library building: https://github.com/City-of-Helsinki/varaamo


I didn't really like the place. It places a _huge_ premium on design vs functionality in some sections. I mean, sure, it looks cool, but the cost is away from something this time instead of mutually existing.


I'm interested to hear what you think the functional shortcomings of the space are. Also, you are making a false dichotomy of function and design. Functionality is an essential part of design.


I agree with you. But what is the correct word for architectural features that detract from functionality? They're often called "design" whether we like it or not.

Whatever they ought to be called instead, it looks to me like the space is not lacking in them--curves and inconvenient angles in particular.


You might be talking about purely aesthetic design. But I disagree, I've been to the place and it was a very functional and easy-to-understand building architecturally. But also beautiful and calming. Aesthetics are a very important and underrated aspect of architecture and I'm glad that money has been spent on this project. When the architecture is not only functional but also aesthetically pleasing, people tend to use it more. And what good comes from a library that nobody would want to go to?


Looks amazing. Makes me want to move back to Helsinki seeing all the new development


This is wonderful. Every library ought to be a palace.


Paywalled



Does it have wifi good enough to play PUBG?


You joke but I would be thrilled if it had a LAN room you could pop into to game with strangers.


Yes, there are a couple of classrooms with gaming PCs on the second floor: https://www.oodihelsinki.fi/en/what-is-oodi/the-facilities-a...


Yes, of course!




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