Although the three finalists were all exceptional buildings, it was not a surprise that Fyyri library in Kirkkonummi, designed by JKMM got the Finlandia Prize for Architecture award this year. The final decision was given to Esa Saarinen, a famous Finnish philosopher, cultural figure and commentator, whose appreciation for the renewal of the Finnish library institution was made clear.
The initial brief was for designing an extension to the existing Kirkkonummi library, but now the award-winning final design by JKMM seems to have totally swallowed up the original building from the 1980s (even online, there’s hardly a trace of the previous one…).
JKMM is one of the leading architectural firms in Helsinki. Before they won the commission to create Fyyri, they had designed the Turku Library (2007) and the Seinäjoki Library (2012), as well as the renovation of Alvar Aalto’s library at the Otaniemi university campus, now Aalto University. Their approach seems to connect with Aalto’s organic modernist tradition, while recreating their own contemporary approach. The play with light and the flow between different spaces has been conceived always through imaginative interpretations, using modern technology for bold formal innovations.
In the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, where the development of the public library institution was the theme at the Finnish Pavilion, the exhibition revealed how the library typology in Finland had seen a renaissance. In the 21st century the new libraries had adopted an architectural language resembling exclusive stores and museums. These ultramodern cultural centres reflected new values, while drawing people in to spend time reading and browsing in beautiful interiors.
”We like to think of Finnish libraries as a sort of ’infrastructure for happiness’. As an architect, it is a great privilege to be involved in these projects. The Finnish library institution is more than hundred years old, and it keeps going from strength to strength, re-inventing itself every ten years or so,” lead designer and principal of JKMM Teemu Kurkela says. In a global survey, which aims to pin down the experience of happiness Finland often gets top scores. This could certainly be related to the high level of public services and investment in education.