The old Savonlinna central library, completed in 1964, was coming to the end of its life cycle, so a decision was made to build a new library on the shores of Lake Saimaa, along the edge of the new approach road.
We began by looking at a free-form solution with different floors opening onto an atrium the same height as the building. The external envelope was to be carried by laminated-timber arches of varying sizes, but with the same geometry. The outer skin was to be in silvery metal, slashed open to provide views over the lake.
The design, christened ‘Muikku’ (muikku means ‘vendace’ – a small silvery fish something like sardine or whitebait), encouraged the locals to take part in a colourful architectural debate about roof forms and eaves. In the end, the economic situation released the muikku into the lake, leaving us with just the fishing net.
The architecture was simplified and straightened out. The free-form library became a rectilinear space with a double-pitched roof and an irregular row of vertical windows opening onto the lake.
Metal ‘fishing nets’ were strung from the overhanging eaves all the way along the building, and graphic designer Aimo Katajamäki drew stylised images on them based on local Savo themes, such as castles, steamboats, bears, rams’ horns and the unique ringed seals that live in Lake Saimaa. The actual elevations of the building, behind the fishing nets, are in larch which will develop a silvery-grey patina over time.
The exposed rock to the south of the area will be retained to show what the bedrock of Savonlinna looks like. Between the rock and the terrace of the library café, there is a small, sheltered park. The main entrance to the library is on the Asematie side, along an avenue of handsome elm trees.
The ‘open space’ approach to the construction of the library allows for a high degree of flexibility. Public spaces are arranged on two floors, which cuts down through traffic and enables different parts of the library to be open at different times.
Offices, storerooms and technical space are arranged along the west side of the building on three floors, while the collections, service points and reading areas form islands of colour below the wide open space of the white ceiling.
As well as being the home of the Savonlinna Opera Festival, Savonlinna is the home town of the writer Joel Lehtonen, from whom the library has acquired its name, ‘Joeli’.
Project in brief
Central Library Joeli
- Location | Savonlinna
- Purpose | Library
- Constructor/Client | Savonlinnan kaupunki
- Architectural Design | Heikkinen Komonen Architects
- Structural design | Insinööritoimisto Tanskanen Oy
- Contractor | Lemminkäinen Talo Oy
- Wood component supplier | StoraEnso / Eridomic Oy and Versowood Oy
- Interior design | Heikkinen Komonen Architects, Aksa Arkkitehtistudio / Karola Sahi
- Volume | 18 235 m3
- Floor area | 3 336 m2
- Total area | 3 680 m2
- Year completed | 2013
- Photographs | Tuomas Uusheimo
- Text | Mikko Heikkinen