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Helsinki Central Library - Gaston Tolila

Helsinki Central Library
Gaston Tolila - Tolila+Gilliland Atelier d ’Architecture - France


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About Gaston Tolia

Gaston Tolila graduated from the INSA Lyon, Department of Civil Engineering and Urbanism in 1997 as a Civil Engineer, and in 2000, he became a DPLG Architect (state diploma) in Paris, France.

Gaston Tolila and Nicholas Gilliland began working together in 2003 through a humanitarian architecture competition for which they were laureates. This nomadic dispensary project was then exhibited at the Pompidou Center in Paris in 2005. Since, they have continued to collaborate on architecture, urbanism and design projects, using their knowledge of public and private work acquired in renowned international architecture offices.
In 2011, they created the Tolila+Gilliland Atelier d’Architecture.

In 2012, their work received the “Prix d’Architecture du Moniteur 2012 pour la première oeuvre”. (French National prize for the first built work). Today, the atelier develops a broad range of architecture programs (housing, public works, offices...) with a particular attention to integration of each project into its own historic, geographic and environmental context.


- 2003-06 Nomadic dispensary, South Africa
- 2005 Exhibition D-Day in Centre Pompidou, Paris, France
- 2006-08 Medical Training Center, Ipuli, Tanzania
- 2007 National Design Triennal, Cooper Hewitt Museum, New York USA
- 2010-12 Mosquito Coast Factory, artist studio, Campbon, France
- 2011 Restaurant Olivades, Paris, France
- 2011 Twenty houses, Rooms with a view, Faymoreau, France
- 2012 Helsinki National Library competition, Finland
- 2012 Office building renovation on Parc Monceau, Paris, France
- 2013 350 apartments and a cinema in Batignolles, Paris, France
- 2013 Office building renovation Avenue de la Grande Armée, Paris, France
- 2013 Five Aesop cosmetics shops, Paris, Geneva and London
- 2014 Offices and activities building, in Massy, France
- 2014 110 apartments in Massy, France
- 2014 Retail building, Design district, Miami USA

Helsinki Central Library

SITE: Helsinki, Finland
DATE: 2012
ARCHITECT: Gaston Tolila and Nicholas Gilliland, Tolila+Gilliland
TEAM: WSP (HVAC), RFR Elément (Environment), Design Box (Structure), Marie Maillard (Artist)
CLIENT: City of Helsinki
MISSION: competition
PROGRAM: Library
SURFACE : 10 000 m² SHON

As a house of culture, the architecture and mission of the Helsinki Central Library is to constantly mediate between individual reflection and respite, collective engagement and shared divertissement. We thus propose an interior urbanism reflecting these inherent complexities and contradictions. It is a parallel and transitory universe built of dense private woods and generous public clearings, mossy resting places and high perches for viewing, a sunny rooftop meadow and dark caves full of surprise. At the edge of the city lies the forest… An open-armed plan in the city center, just at the edge of the woods, pulls visitors in from the south, while the building’s colonnaded tree structures create a porous ground-floor entry from its lateral and northern edges: entering into the library is an act as natural as entering or traversing a public square. Four lines of concrete “trees,” organize the tri-partite plan from east to west, creating the effect of an arcaded “filter” between Alvar Aallon katu and the Park. This “urban atrium” is a vertical space which unites all of the major Library programs into various levels of direct communication.


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