This library in Indonesia is the first in a series of ‘Microlibraries’ in different locations throughout the country that aim to tackle the problem of low reading rates
With high illiteracy rate in Indonesia and lack of reading facilities, SHAU -a multi-awarded rising architecture practice- started a mission: to rekindle interest in books by offering a designed place for reading paired with multiple community activities.
[Why] Microlibraries: Small but Many, From Bandung to the Global South
In 2012, the ‘100 Microlibraries’ program was initiated to make learning attractive and reachable for Indonesia and beyond. Although the economic forecast for Indonesia is optimistic, the current infrastructure does not support to improve its Human Development Index. Eager-learning students are hindered by the lack of facilities; libraries are far from being popular. The role of beautiful design can make libraries attractive again. Instead of positioning libraries only in city centers, why not bringing libraries closer to homes?
The mayor of Bandung Ridwan Kamil accommodated the idea and immediately provided a site. ‘Microlibrary Bima’ is the first realized prototype of a series of Microlibraries in different locations throughout Indonesia and the Global South. More microlibraries are under construction and in planning in thirteen different neighbourhoods and parks in Bandung. Each microlibrary is uniquely designed to fit programmatic demands of each site and community.
[What & How] Microlibrary Bima: Upcycling 2000 ice cream buckets
Microlibrary Bima is located at Taman Bima in Bandung, Indonesia. The neighborhood consists of diverse middle and lower-income residents. The building is situated in a small square with a pre-existing stage that was already used by the local community for gatherings, events and sports activities. The planning intention was to add rather than take away, so SHAU decided to enhance the open stage by shading it, making it rain protected and cover it in form of the floating library box.
The building is constructed via a simple steel structure made from I-beams and concrete slabs for floor and roof. The stage was reworked in concrete and a previously missing, full-length stairs were added. As the building is located in a tropical climate, the aim is to create a pleasant indoor climate without the use of air conditioning. Therefore, it is important to use available façade materials in the neighborhood that were cost efficient, could shade the interior, let daylight pass and enable enough cross ventilation. Initially, the architects found several small vendors selling used, white and translucent jerry cans. However, prior to construction the jerry cans were no longer available in the required quantities. Instead, the team found used plastic ice cream buckets that were being sold in bulk. This turned out for the better as they have a more positive image and are more stable when cutting the bottom open for cross ventilation.
While studying design options of how to arrange 2000 ice cream buckets, SHAU team realized that they could be interpreted as zeros (opened) and ones (closed), thus giving them the possibility to embed a message in the façade in the form of a binary code. SHAU asked the Mayor of Bandung, Ridwan Kamil, a supporter of the project whether he had a message for the Microlibrary and neighborhood and his message is: “buku adalah jendela dunia”, which means ‘books are the windows to the world’. The message can be read starting from the top left (facing the front) and spirals down around the perimeter repeatedly. Not only does the facade give additional meaning to the building but the buckets also generate a pleasant indoor light ambiance since they scatter direct sunlight and act as natural light bulbs.
The buckets were then placed in between vertical steel ribs spanning from floor to roof and are inclined towards the outside to repel rainwater. For more harsh tropical rainstorms translucent sliding doors in the inside can be closed temporarily. Mounting 2000 buckets, making the fixture and punching out bottoms of more than half of them is time consuming. However, the local craftsmen made their own punch out/cutting tools to be faster while also maintaining sharp and clean edges.
The Microlibrary adds identity and is a source of pride for all the people in the neighborhood. The activities and teaching are currently supported and organized by Dompet Dhuafa (Pocket for the Poor) and the Indonesian Diaspora Foundation. However, the ultimate goal is to enable the local people to organize the content and maintenance independently. A local elementary school has started to visit the microlibrary two times per week as a part of their curriculum.