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Oodi Helsinki Library: A Masterpiece of Architectural Poetry.

If you translate “Oodi” to English it becomes “Ode”, a type of poetry that was intended to be sung. The Oodi Helsinki Central Library is a piece of architectural poetry. In a nation where half the population visits a library at least once a month, Oodi is in many ways the hub of the community in Helsinki. I visited Oodi at the end of a work trip in Finland and was overwhelmed by the incredible architecture and thoughtful design. I spent a day and a half photographing this architectural treasure.


The sweeping front corner of the Oodi Helsinki Library, photographed by Andrew Keithly


The Ship-like exterior

From the exterior, the swelling curves of the library are simply stunning. Personally, I’d describe it as a ship, the wooden bow rising far above you.


The front entry of the Oodi Helsinki Central Library, photographed by Andrew Keithly

Detail shot of the wood facade of the Oodi Helsinki Central Library, photographed by Andrew Keithly


Oodi Helsinki Central Library Exterior, photographed by Andrew Keithly


Kansalaistori Square: A Space for Public Events 

The Kansalaistori Square in front of the library is constantly used for a variety of events, including this rally in support of the war in Ukraine. It occurred on the second day I was there. Helsinki is barely 100 miles from the Russian border and has had a long history of war with the Russians, making the current conflict top of mind for the Finns.


A rally in the Kansalaistori Square, photographed by Andrew Keithly


Ground Floor: Community and Chess

The first floor is home to a restaurant, theater, and this row of chess match tables. I was fascinated by the range of ages playing chess, and the view out towards the Finnish parliament was spectacular.


A chess match at the Oodi Helsinki Central Library, photographed by Andrew Keithly

This double helix staircase is mesmerizing and a favorite with tourists. It punches its way through the center of the building.


 The Double Helix staircase at the Oodi Helsinki Central Library, photographed by Andrew Keithly


Second Floor: Creative Studios and Workspaces 

The second floor is home to many small studios and workspaces. There are machines for 3D printing, a music studio with dozens of instruments to borrow, sewing machines, powerful computers for students to learn 3D design or create videos on, and this incredible, communal workspace. It was mainly full of younger students, so I unfortunately had to limit


Workspace on the second floor of the Oodi Helsinki Central Library, photographed by Andrew Keithly


Top Floor: The largest cozy reading nook in the world

The top floor is home to the actual library and is arguably one of the most inviting in the world. The architecture, with its warm wood tones and soft lighting from the skylights, creates a space that is perfect for studying and reading.

Top floor at the Oodi Helsinki Central Library, photographed by Andrew Keithly

This photograph of the staircase overlooking the city is one of my favorite images of all time.

Top floor at the Oodi Helsinki Central Library, photographed by Andrew Keithly


Top floor at the Oodi Helsinki Central Library, photographed by Andrew Keithly

I love the Hank Williams book displayed on the endcap, but seriously, why can't American Libraries look like this?


 

A symbol of Architectural Excellence

The Oodi Helsinki Central Library is not just a building; it’s a symbol of innovative design and community spirit. I’ve always been fond of mass timber architecture and timber construction, but the Oodi Helsinki has cemented itself as one of my favorite photography projects of all time.


The seamless integration of aesthetic appeal with functional spaces is a masterclass in using sustainable materials and creative solutions to meet community needs.


As an architectural photographer, capturing the essence of Oodi was an exhilarating experience. The play of light and shadow, of wood and glass, and the vibrant community interactions within its spaces offered endless photographic opportunities. Each corner of Oodi tells a story of thoughtful design and artistic expression.


if you want to learn more about the Library, I'd suggest you read this fascinating article:


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See more of my work by visiting www.studioagk.com


If you’re interested in capturing the essence of your projects through stunning architectural photography, feel free to contact me. Together, we can bring your architectural visions to life.


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