Micro Miracle: When books meet ice-cream buckets, this library happens

Project: Microlibrary Bima | Design: SHAU | Location: Bandung, Indonesia | Photos: Sanrok Studio

With the illiteracy rate increasing in Indonesia as well as the lack of reading facilities, award-winning architecture practice SHAU has taken upon themselves to transform this situation – via designing a community space that they call a Microlibrary.

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, the program aimed to bring 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.

Microlibrary Bima is located at Taman Bima in Bandung, Indonesia where its 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 we decided to enhance the open stage by shading it, making it rain protected and cover it in form of the floating library box,” SHAU says.

Constructed via a simple steel structure made from I-beams and concrete slabs for floor and roof, the building 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,” say the architects. “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.”

According to the architects, they initially 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. The buckets also generate a pleasant indoor light ambiance since they scatter direct sunlight and act as natural light bulbs.

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 2 times per week as a part of their curriculum.

2 thoughts on “Micro Miracle: When books meet ice-cream buckets, this library happens

  1. Orion

    This is an important piece you wrote as it highlights the fact that the environment has a huge influence on the brain. If you give the brain something it likes, i.e ice cream or a place designed in a different way than the horrible classroom environment then reading can happen more naturally. same for background music as they found for example that Mozart music increases children’s intelligence.

  2. Alok Singh

    A very nice post bringing into limelight a very small part of the world which is bringing the reading habit closer to the people literally bringing a full fledged library next to their homes. The ice cream buckets being used in a manner that there is ample sunlight and ventilation as well at the same time is really interesting and may be copied and implemented at other places as well. Thanks for spreading this idea through you post which I am sure will inspire many more people.

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