Vyborg Library (Finnish: Viipurin kirjasto) is a library in Vyborg, Russia, built during the time of Finnish sovereignty (1918 to 1940-44), before the Finnish city of Viipuri was annexed by the former USSR and its Finnish name was changed to Vyborg by the USSR authorities.
The building, built from 1927 to 1935, is an internationally acclaimed design by the Finnish architect Alvar Aalto and one of the major examples of 1920s functionalist architectural design. The library is considered one of the first manifestations of “regional modernism”. It is particularly famous for its wave-shaped ceiling in the auditorium, the shape of which, Aalto argued, was based on acoustic studies. On completion the library was known as Viipuri Library, but after the Second World War and Soviet annexation, the library was renamed the Nadezhda Krupskaya Municipal Library. Nowadays, integrated in the Russian Federation city of Vyborg, the library is officially known as the Central City Alvar Aalto Library.
The library restoration project lasted almost two decades from 1994 until late 2013. The restoration work was awarded with the World Monuments Fund / Knoll Modernism Prize in 2014 and the Europa Nostra Award in 2015.
ARCHITECT: ALVAR AALTO
YEAR: 1933 -1935
LOCATION: CITY PARK, VYBORG (VIIPURI), RUSSIA
Like other works constructed from Aalto, this project was the result of a competition for the construction of the Viipuri Library (formerly belonging to Finland and current city Russian Vyborg) won in 1927, but did not begin to build until 1933 in this long period, from the contest until the completion of the final draft in 1933, one can see through the evolution of their schemes a shift in thinking that will architect of functionalism to a fully organic architecture. The library was opened in October 1935.
It was widely acclaimed by critics, including Giorgio Labò stated that “while Frank Lloyd Wright developed the open floor plan, Aalto began the free section, creating a spatial continuity of the first order”.
The building was partly bombed in World War II and abandoned for over ten years, causing extensive damage. In the 90’s a rebuilding process that would drag on for years and was made possible by donations received, this reconstruction is pursued to accurately reproduce the original draft of 1935 During 2011-2013, the Government of the Russian Federation began financed works that still missing to complete the restoration.
Located in the central park of the city of Vyborg (Viipuri), Russia, and close to the local church, the library has three differential inputs among which the principal is by the north and directly from the main street parallel to the park, middle east where access to offices and service areas to the south and another where, through the park for children adjacent to the building is independently access the children’s library is made.
In 1933 Finnish Viipuri was a town with 90,000 inhabitants situated in the southeast of the country. After World War II it was held by the Russians, to be renamed Vyborg. The library only worked continuously for the 15 months preceding the great contest and once finished, although it was not destroyed, he witnessed the hardships of Soviet Russia and its been abandoned for many years was complete.
Viipuri Library section is particularly interesting. From ground level, a set of stairs ascends switchbacks leading to a two-level space receives daylight through a skylight and is home to the stacks, one of the areas of reading and control desk.
With the Viipuri Library, Aalto created some type of library buildings, with the free section, creating lighting and special features undulating surfaces, apply later in other multiple Library projects like Seinäjoke (1963-1965), Otaniemi (1965-1969), Reykjavik (1965-1968), the Library of Mount Angel Benedictine in USA (1967-1970) or Center Cultural Wolfsburg(1962)
Aalto himself defines his work as the result of his inspiration in the mountain and cliffs bathed in sunlight at different times of day landscapes. “… When I designed the city library in Viipuri, for long periods of time I chased the solution with the help of primitive drawings of some kind of fantastic mountain scenery with cliffs lit by soles in different positions, from which came gradually, the concept for the library building. The architectural core of the library is reading areas and at different levels and loan plateaus, while central control area and forms the highest point above the different levels. Children’s drawings have only a direct connection with the architectural design, but joined together in section and plan, create a kind of unity between the horizontal and vertical structures… “(Alvar Aalto)
The building is composed of two rectangular volumes, the intersection creates a common area of circulation. This clear separation of the volumes corresponding to a functional differentiation program. The main block is designed for the act of reading, and Aalto dedicated special attention to the isolation and lighting of spaces through a successful manipulation of light and the use of thicker outer wall, while the other lower block, located at north, contains administrative services.
Although most references show three main floors and the ceiling plane, after a more detailed analysis plans and sections, six different elevation levels. On the ground floor is a large entrance hall, a cloakroom, and on the right is the conference room. The separate Children’s Library entrance is on a slightly lower plane in the south side of the plant. The room deposit is located about 2.5 meters below the children’s library. If the entry path follows is a series of stairs leading to 2 different levels with deposits of books and reading rooms. At the same level are administrative offices. The circulation desk is on the highest point overlooking the area of reading and borrowing books.
The main reading rooms and lending libraries, artfully superimposed, create a new section and continuous space. To the left of the main hall flanked by two glass staircase leads to the administrative wing.
Deposits and children’s library
Below the entrance floor with an interior access were library deposits, and with direct access from the park, the children’s library. The deposits were composed of 25 modules comb shelves that leaving a center aisle, again repeated on the other side.
The children’s library has access from the playground in the park, at the opposite end to the main entrance.
The skylights illuminate the deck arranged in such continuous rooms, resulting in a uniform light diffusion avoids creating shadows the reader uncomfortable, while minimizing the use of artificial lighting, which in turn was conceived and designed to obtain a similar to that achieved with natural light effect. The lighting in this room, together with its division of spaces are the key features that have made this space for lovers of architecture in place of worship.
The Trout and the Stream
by Alvar Aalto
When I designed the Viipuri City Library (and I had plenty of time, a whole five years), I spent long periods getting my range, as it were, with naive drawings. I drew all kinds of fantastic mountain landscapes, with slopes lit by many suns in different positions, which gradually gave rise to the main idea of the building. The architectural framework of the library comprises several reading and lending areas stepped at different levels, with the administrative and supervisory centre at the peak. My childlike drawings were only indirectly linked with architectural thinking, but they eventually led to an interweaving of the section and ground plan, and to a kind of unity of horizontal and vertical construction.
St. Petersburg – Vyborg (55min by train)
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