The Library's main building is designed by architect C.L. Engel 1836 and was built in 1840-45. The annex is called the Rotunda and was built in 1902-06 by architect Gustaf Nyström.

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C. L. Engel (gravure: K.I.Senff 1829) | Gustaf Nyström

The Fabiania building, named after its address at Fabianinkatu, was constructed in three phases. The middle part of the building was built for the University's Departments of Chemistry and Anatomy in 1844-46 by architect Jean Wiik. The wing facing Kirkkokatu was built in 1888-90 for the Department of Anatomy, and the wing facing Yliopistonkatu for the Department of Pharmacy in 1895-97. Both wings were designed by Gustaf Nyström. The Library moved into the building in 1998.

In 1995-2001 the Fabiania and the Rotunda were renovated, and an underground passage connecting the two buildings was built. The project was designed by the architect's office Laiho-Pulkkinen-Raunio (architects Ola Laiho and Sinikka Selänne).

The large new collection stack, called the Cave, was completed in 2001.

Main facade of the University Library. C. L. Engel 1836

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The main building

The University Library's main building is one of the best known examples of the late 19th century Empire style in Finland and an important example of the European official library buildings of its time. Fire protection was the main idea when the building was planned: the building is not connected with the University Main Building, and the Library block was surrounded by leafy trees; the halls and rooms are all vaulted. In the design of the façade and the beautiful interiors, C. L. Engel in a personal way connected components of Classicism with allusions to the classical world. Of Engel's three alternative drawings for a library building, Czar Nicholas I selected the grandest one. The halls are symmetrically placed, and the ground plan can be traced to the Baths of Diocletian in Rome. The outer and inner architecture is based on a system of Corinthian columns. The façade echoes the architecture of a Classical temple: the pilasters and columns and the entablature above them are fitted exactly proportionally to the University Main Building.

Longitudinal section of the University Library. C. L. Engel 1836

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The Library's large halls are all connected with one another. The main axis from the street leads straight into the heart of the Library, the Cupola Hall, and continues into the Rotunda. The Cupola Hall is connected with the two side halls that today are reading rooms, the South Hall and the North Hall. In the beginning there was no furniture in the halls, just the wall shelves behind the columns that support the galleries. The books were arranged by discipline. The columns are coated with stucco marble, and each hall has its own colour scheme. The painted ceiling ornaments are from 1881.

The three halls form a unique suite of rooms in Finnish architectural history, an academic temple devoted to research and science. This was emphasised by placing the entrance opposite the main entrance of the Cathedral. In this way the library building became a component in the total architectural setting of the Senate Square and its political message, to emphasise the political connection with Russia by architectural means.

In the 19th century there were works of art and plaster casts of ancient Greek and Roman statues in the halls. One of the lunettes in the North Hall was replaced in 1904 by a large oil painting, "The Golden Age", by Magnus Enckell. The North Hall was converted into a reading room in the 1890s.

The Rotunda

Facade of the Rotunda. Gustaf Nyström ca 1905

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The work on the extension began in 1902, and the new part was taken into use in 1906-07. It has six floors above ground. The semicircular extension is surrounded by radially placed bookshelves accommodating approximately 200,000 volumes. Fire safety aspects were taken into consideration, and the building has a framework of steel and reinforced concrete. It was a very modern building, the first of its kind in Finland. The staircases are of reinforced concrete, the window frames and the construction that carries the glass roof are of iron, and the windows are of armoured glass. Architect Gustaf Nyström placed his Rotunda at the back side of Engel's old building in a very natural way; the fittings are, however, typically early 19th century style.

Externally the pillars of the Rotunda are adorned with reliefs personifying the sciences by the sculptor Walter Runeberg.


Facade of the Fabiania building. Gustaf Nyström 1895

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The building received its name, Fabiania, from its address at Fabianinkatu. It was built in three phases. The middle part was built for the Departments of Chemistry and Anatomy when it was found that there were certain problems related to their existence in the University Main Building. Architect Jean Wiik was the successor of C. L. Engel, and the laboratory building was his first independent work. It is in a simple symmetric classical style and is a plain, distinct office building compared to Engel's buildings for the University. The wings, designed by Gustaf Nyström, are more interesting with their details of cast iron and their more decorated façades.

The library yard was redesigned in 2001. The original iron fence and the trees are still on the Unionionkatu side. By the south wall there is a bronze bust of Czar Alexander I by Ivan Martos from 1814. It was originally ordered for the university in Turku, later it stood in the University's festivity hall and was placed in a library park in the 1950s. Near it is a memorial stone brought from Viipuri in 1988 that commemorates the book collector Matti Pohto.


    • Bibliotheca Renovata. Helsingin Yliopiston Kirjasto. Toim. Pertti Koistinen & Heikki Kääriäinen. Helsinki 1957.

    • Nils Erik Wickberg: Senaatintori - Senatstorget - The Senate Square - Der Senatsplatz. Rungsted Kyst 1981.

    • Yliopiston Helsinki - University Architecture in Helsinki. Toim. - Ed. Eea Pekkala-Koskela. Helsinki 1990.

    • Bibliotheca Academica. Helsinki University Library. Ed. Rainer Knapas. Helsinki 2001.