The city is also building a new municipal library (ALA Architects), a sinuous, twisting shape that will create another huge new public interior. It envisages a covered landscape for a type of building with a very open future — what might a library look like in 20 years? The new library will create a foil for its hulking neighbour, Helsinki's single experiment in global iconism: Steven Holl's huge Kiasma Museum (1998). This is a freestanding, sculptural structure the size of a couple of city blocks that now looks like what it is: a cultural blockbuster from the last century.
Both buildings were conceived as standalone works and it is difficult to see how either relates to the city. Perhaps they will counterbalance each other in scale and self-conscious sculptural intent, if not in coherence. The wonderful functionalist Lasipalatsi (Glass Palace) of 1936 is also being restored and will house the Amos Rex art museum, making it difficult to see exactly what need there ever was for a Guggenheim.
At the other end of the scale is the city's obsession with the sauna. It is an understandable retreat when winter temperatures regularly plunge to double figures below zero but it makes for a curious kind of urbanism. Avanti Architects caused a stir with its faceted stealth sauna, Loyly, on the waterside in Hernesaari. An embryonic attempt at the regeneration of a still-industrial dockside, this little timber boarded building becomes a landscape, in the current fashionable vein of Oslo's Opera House or Amanda Levete's MAAT Museum in Lisbon, a ridge on which to clamber up and observe the sea rather than a conventional building block. It is an approach that fits the social spaces here: the communal steam rooms, bars, restaurant and outside terraces wrapped into a sap-smelling, smoky timber embrace.
Even at the very heart of the city, alongside the busy dock, the popular Allas sauna and floating pools (one heated, one unheated, salty and shrivellingly cold) by Huttunen Lipasti Pakkanen Architects becomes a kind of climbing frame, a mini-mountainside for a flat city. The sauna, the Finns' default interior social space, has become the city's social outdoor hub and a proxy public space.