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Apila – Municipal Library in Seinäjoki

Tapio Snellman

Living among books: on libraries and communities.

Of all the things I could not do during the lockdown and the following phase '2', in which many institutions and businesses could re-open, the one I longed for the most was going back to my local library. I was able to return the books I borrowed in March and, eventually, request the ones I needed to work. However, libraries are not just an inventory of books, an archive one goes when it is needed: every library lover knows how difficult it is to find a "the one". Libraries are places where people go to work, where they go to read and to discover what they could eventually want to read, to check books, to pass time, to find a warm and safe place to linger.

Usually, on The Architecture Player we describe and analyze videos for how they are made and how they portray the architecture they focus on, so it is quite unusual to write using the first person, but, the Apila Library in the small city of Seinäjoki, in western Finland, calls for a more personal story. On one hand, as most of the libraries in the world are now closed until further notice - as universities and schools are - and on the other because some places make sense only when people inhabit them.

Third of a series of films commissioned by JKMM Architects to Tapio Snellman, "Apila Library" is a two-minutes-long film that explores how a library has become the beating heart of a community. Integrated into an assemble of 1960s buildings designed by the Alvar Aalto, Apila is excavated underground, connecting seamlessly with the master-architects original library. Beautifully designed, with its light wooden interiors, Apila is a place for people: proof is the way seatings are located inside the structures: not only wide and long tables with comfortable chairs and good lighting, but also armchairs, steps where people can sit and work in more informal formations, nooks for the little ones and computers for the elders.

What strikes here are the dimensions of said institution and the variety of possibilities it offers. As he did in other cases such as in the "Collage House" by Jonathan Tuckey Design, Tapio Snellman here uses geometrical divisions and juxtaposition to play with the geometrical and material divisions within the building, creating stark vertical and horizontal lines which split the screen into halves and quarters.

If you want to read more about libraries, you may click on the tag "library" to check videos such as "Biblioteca Baiona" by Imagen Subliminal (architecture by Murado & Elvira).

(Story by Sara Marzullo, The Architecture Player)


Architect: JKMM Architects
Mentioned project: Seinäjoki Library (2012)
Project location: Seinäjoki, Finland

Finland 2019
Duration: 02'20"