Åbo Akademi University Book Tower

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Photo: Kari Hakli / MFA
  • PlaceTurku
  • Completion 1935
  • Decade1930s
  • PeriodConstructing the identity of a newly independent nation
  • Year of selection1993


Åbo Akademi University’s first purpose-built building was located in the culturally and historically important milieu of Turku Cathedral on land owned by the Akademi. The building of the library was made possible by a large donation from the bookseller Gösta Branders and his wife Gertrud. On the donors’ request, decisions were made quickly and the building committee requested a draft proposal from Erik Bryggman in May 1934. Bryggman’s proposal was a modern, cubic book tower flanked by the library’s office building, which however was not built. Bryggman’s ultra-modern, simple and clean Functionalist design, located in a park-like plot surrounded by a wall in an old cultural landscape, was considered appropriate for its surroundings. Even the height of the white-rendered book tower raised no objections.

On the ground floor were the lending desk, catalogue file cards, and student reading room. Glass walls brought light and transparency into the space. In the middle of the space, behind the lending desk, was a metal spiral staircase and lift. The two basement floors were used mainly for newspaper storage. On the first floor were offices, that is, staff workrooms and the manuscript collections. The three upper floors, with low ceilings, contain book storage with steel shelving. Bryggman designed all the interiors. The office spaces were furnished with Merivaara steel furniture and rubber flooring and the flush doors were stained brown. The general appearance of the spaces has been preserved, even though they have been modernised. For example, the wooden chairs with curved backs in the reading room have been replaced by ergonomic chairs.

Bryggman mentioned that the closest models for the design of the book tower were book repositories in America and the extension to the library of Lund University in Sweden. Before the completion of the book tower and simultaneously the main building of the Vierumäki Sports Institute, Bryggman undertook an extensive study trip to Germany. Also, the influence of the Bauhaus and the works of Walter Gropius can be seen in Bryggman’s Functionalist works. After Bryggman’s death, a spacious library hall and offices (1956-58), designed by Woldemar Baeckman, were built adjoining the book tower, the design of which followed Bryggman’s design ideas and proportions.


Helena Soiri-Snellman

Bryggman, Erik (1936). ”Åbo Akademis Boktorn”, Arkitekten 1/ 1936.
Grägg, Ulrika (2004). ”Modernitet på beställning: Erik Bryggmans boktorn för Åbo Akademis bibliotek”. Mäkikalli, Maija & Ulrika Grägg, Ulrika (toim.). Moderni Turku 1920- ja 1930-luvuilla – Det Moderna Åbo under 1920- 0ch 1930-talen. Turku: Turun yliopisto
Holmberg, Eric (1938). Åbo Akademis bibliotek under nytt tak: byggnadsbeskrivning. Åbo: Åbo tidnings och tryckeri aktiebolag.
Ringbom, Sixten & Ringbom, Åsa (1985). Akademiska gårdar, Arkitektur och miljöer kring Åbo Akademi. Åbo: Åbo Akademi