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A black and white photograph of a library's reading room. In the middle a large stairway leads to the lower floor. Walls are covered with bookshelves.
The reading room at the Viipuri Library designed by Alvar Aalto. photo: Gustav Weilin / Alvar Aalto Museum

Mind-Building next on display at the legendary Aalto Library in Vyborg

The Finnish library architecture exhibition, first displayed at the Biennale Architettura 2018 in Venice, has previously toured Finnish libraries. The library in Vyborg, Russia, designed by Alvar and Aino Aalto, is one of the libraries featured in the exhibition.

Finnnish public libraries are internationally admired as facilitators of a democratic civilization and libraries are indeed the most used cultural service in Finland. The Mind-Building exhibition, which was originally commissioned by Archinfo Finland for the Venice Biennale Architettura 2018, tells the story of Finnish library architecture. The exhibition will be displayed at the Central City Alvar Aalto Library in Viborg from 2 February to 10 April 2022. 

“Library is the cornerstone of a civilised, forward-looking society. In Finland, library has bred readers to our literature, spread information and knowledge, attracted youngsters away from the streets, taught us to use the Internet, and facilitated and equipped us to be active and autonomous citizens. Our architects have given the library its visual form. Our exhibition is a tribute to library architecture. Furthermore, it is a reminder of the power of good architecture, exceeding time and place,” tells curator Anni Vartola of the ideas behind the exhibition.

Mind-Building presents seventeen library buildings from different periods, grouped under specific themes. A distinctive feature from each building is highlighted. The oldest library in the exhibition is from the year 1881 – the Rikhardinkatu Library in Helsinki, designed by architect Theodor Höijer – whereas the newest, the Oodi Helsinki Central Library by ALA Architects, opened to the public in December 2018, a week after the end of the Venice Biennale. 

In the exhibition the Viipuri Library, completed in 1935, represents white modernism and the era’s confidence in the future. The building designed by Alvar and Aino Aalto is one of the best known libraries in the world. In the times of its opening it was a pioneer not only for its architecture but for its functions as well: it was the first Finnish library to have a dedicated children’s section. The library was wonderfully restored in the 2010s by architect Tapani Mustonen.

All library buildings featured in the exhibition are loved by their users and evoke pride in the locals. Mind-Building travels to Viborg from Seinäjoki where it was on display for one and a half months at the Apila library, designed by JKMM Architects. In the autumn 2021 the exhibition was also seen at the Lohja main library, designed by Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects. Mind-Building has also visited the Oodi library and the Embassy of Finland in Washington, USA. 

A virtual panel discussion and film shows will be organised in conjunction with the exhibition. One of the films to be shown will be the “Aalto” documentary (age limit 16 years) that tells about the significant events in Alvar Aalto’s and his family’s lives. It was directed by Virpi Suutari and premiered in 2020. The show in Viborg will be realised in cooperation with the Russian Beat Film Festival. The programme with exact dates will be revealed later on the website of the Finnish Institute in St. Petersburg at instfin.ru. (link, opens in a new tab).

A digital version of the exhibition catalogue is available in English and Italian on mind-building.fi (link, opens in a new tab). 

You can purchase the physical version through the leading Nordic publisher of architectural books Arvinius + Orfeus webstore through this link (opens in a new tab)

The main supporter of the original exhibition was the Ministry of Education and Culture of Finland and the exhibition in Viborg will be produced with the support of the Ministry’s art and culture in Russia grant. The main partners are the Finnish Institute in St. Petersburg and the Central City Alvar Aalto Library in Viborg.

Link: Mind-Building in Viborg