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Jyväskylä University’s Main Library refurbishment wins Finlandia Prize for Architecture 2022

The different floors of the library seen from the large square inside

Riikka Mäkipelkola

Filmmaker Klaus Härö has chosen as winner of this year’s Finlandia Prize for Architecture a refurbishment, which he praises for the seamless fusion of old and new. The refurbishment design was led by architect Ari Sipinen, son of the building’s original designer.

Invited as selector of the 2022 Finlandia Prize for Architecture winner, director Klaus Härö notes that the building seems to exude a deep sense of respect towards the historic library and its users and visitors.

“The designers have taken a meticulous and nuanced approach to understanding the purpose the building has served in the past and how it might continue to serve in the future. While they have preserved that which already exists, they have not fallen into an uncritical romanticisation of it just because it happens to match their own aesthetic preferences,” says Härö.

“The respect here is leavened by a confidence to make changes that are meaningful, bold even. This child of its time, skilfully set within the wider built and urban environment that surrounds it, is revitalised by the refurbishment that, with consideration and restraint, allows the old to thrive in its new context.”

New life of the 1970s library

Designed by architect Arto Sipinen, Jyväskylä University’s Main Library was completed in 1974. The recent refurbishment was led by the architect’s son, Ari Sipinen (Sipinen Architects), while the spatial and interior design was carried out by Merja Kiviranta (BST Architects).

Finlandia 2022
Director Klaus Härö congratulating the winner, architect Ari Sipinen, together with President of SAFA Henna Helander and Chair of Pre-selection Jury Panu Lehtovuori. photo: Miina Jutila

“Under no circumstances should we be demolishing our 1970s building stock. With good design and thoughtful adaptation, these buildings can be updated to meet the needs of the 21st century,” Ari Sipinen says.

“At nearly half a century of age, the building services originally installed in the library were hopelessly outdated, and the university’s requirements had changed over time, too. This meant that the refurbishment encompassed the entirety of the library, excluding only the concrete frame, and some internal glass and brick walls that have a protected status,” Sipinen explains.

Finlandia 2022
Photo: Riikka Mäkipelkola

Previously known as the ‘Yellow Library’, the building’s original colour scheme was retained in the refurbishment. The interiors feature a palette of primary colours: yellow, black, white, blue and red. New study and social areas were created for both students and staff. Areas that had previously served as book repositories were amalgamated with the upper floors through the addition of new openings between the floors. The library’s skylights were also replaced during the refurbishment.

Finlandia 2022
Photos: Riikka Mäkipelkola, Joonas Lampinen

Jyväskylä University’s library was shortlisted for the Finlandia Prize for Architecture alongside the Serlachius Art Sauna (Mendoza-Partida Architectural Studio ja BAX Studio, in co-operation with Planetary Architecture) and Jätkäsaari Comprehensive School (AOR Arkkitehdit). 

Read about the Finlandia Prize finalists

The Finlandia Prize for Architecture is awarded for the design or renovation design of an outstanding new building or building complex that has been completed in Finland or by Finnish architects within the past three years. In 2022, the Pre-selection Jury comprised Professor Panu Lehtovuori (chair), architect Sarlotta Narjus, architect Mona Schalin and Professor Rainer Mahlamäki. The secretariat was provided by Paula Huotelin.