Oodi

Finland Is Officially the Best Place to Be if You Love Books

Finland is a land of many things, and more so than anyone else, they’re readers. Finland is a haven for both book readers and library lovers: while many countries are downsizing their public library systems, Finland is adding more infrastructure which will not only allow its citizens to enjoy the pleasantries of libraries, but create a new space for its public to meet and socialize.

 

Nasima Razmyar arrived in Finland in 1992 as part of a refugee family fleeing Afghanistan. At the time, she was unable to speak the language and found difficulty getting around, but was shocked and pleased to find that a library card would provide her access to books, and for free. “A library card was the first thing that was mine, that I had ever owned. I still have that library card in my wallet today.”

 

Today, Razmyar is the deputy mayor of Helsinki, the country’s capital, and a champion for the public library system. Her most recent success is Oodi, Helsinki’s newest central library, which will open in December.

 

Oodi

Image via World Architecture News

 

Oodi, or Ode in English, is not only just the newest structure in Helsinki’s public library system. Antti Nousjoki, one of the architects, described it as “an indoor town square … designed to give citizens and visitors a free space to actively do what they want to do – not just be a consumer or a flâneur.”

 

Many consider Oodi a gift to the people of Finland from Finland itself; it was commissioned as part of their celebration of a century of independence. “I think Finland could not have given a better gift to the people. It symbolizes the significance of learning and education, which have been fundamental factors for Finland’s development and success,” said Razmyar.

 

Oodi

Image via World Architecture News

 

Oodi’s construction only adds to Finland’s spot at the forefront of supporting literacy, its readers, and its public libraries. In 2016, the United Nations named Finland the world’s most literate nation, and they are some of the world’s most-book obsessed people – Finns borrow close to 68 million books a year, despite their 5.5 million citizens. Despite worldwide budget cuts to libraries, Finland’s public library system continues to excel and grow its presence. According to 2016 figures, the United Kingdom spends £14.40 per person on libraries, while Finland spends £50.50. Since 2010, the United Kingdom has closed almost 500 libraries between England, Wales, and Scotland. Finland has just spent €98 million on the Oodi, and the public could not be happier.

 

Libraries are a tangible reflection of the importance Finns place on education, amongst other things that epitomize the ideal citizen. “There’s strong belief in education for all,” said Hanna Harris, director of Archinfo Finland. “There is an appreciation of active citizenship – the idea that it is something that everyone is entitled to. Libraries embody that strongly.”

 

The location chosen for Oodi is takes this into account, and is particularly awesome: it’s across the street from Finnish Parliament. Like, literally across the street. “It’s remarkable that when standing on the open balcony of the library people are looking straight into the parliament and standing on the same level,” said Razmyar.

 

Oodi

Image via World Architecture News

 

Libraries all across Finland offer services beyond book-lending, including lending electronic publications, sports equipment, power tools, “items of occasional use”, and even one library in Vantaa offers karaoke! Oodi plans to offer even more to its public: it will not only be a library, but a cafe, restaurant, public balcony, cinema, audiovisual recording studio, plus a makerspace with 3D printers. Apparently a sauna was considered to be included, but was not, in a heartbreaking turn of events.

 

Oodi

Image via World Architecture News

 

“Libraries must reach out to the new generations. The world is changing – so libraries are changing too. People need places to meet, to work, to develop their digital skills,” said Razmyar. Nousjoki said, “We want people to find and use the spaces and start to change them. Our aim was to make Oodi attractive so that everybody will use it – and play a role in making sure it is maintained.” 

 

The most interesting thing about Finland’s newest and most impressive library is actually not about the building itself, it’s the cost (€98 million, if you remember), and that the public is predominantly positive about the project. The complete lack of public opposition to the project only makes those responsible for it even more excited to unveil the completed library. “People are looking forward to Oodi. It’s not been contentious: people are excited about it across the board. It will be important to daily life here in Helsinki,” said Archifino director Harris.

 

Oodi

Image via World Architecture News

 

Featured Image via World Architecture News.