With its recently-completed Microlibrary, Dutch firm Shau offers a reminder that architecture projects don't need to be expensive or packed with technology to show real ingenuity. Serving Bandung in Indonesia, the community library comprises a ventilated facade made from used ice cream tubs and was built for only €35,000 (roughly US$38,700).
The Microlibrary is the first in a series of small libraries planned for Indonesia by Shau, as part of an attempt to promote interest in reading and make more books available to the poor. The project is supported by charities Dompet Dhuafa (Pocket for the Poor) and the Indonesian Diaspora Foundation.
Situated atop a pre-existing stage area (and offering shade and shelter for users of that stage), the building comprises a simple structure of steel beams and concrete slabs for its floor and roof. Shau sought a facade material that would be cheap and allow air to pass through, making the interior a more pleasant place to sit and read without needing air-conditioning.
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The firm first tried plastic jerry cans, but found that there weren't enough for sale locally. Settling on 2,000 ice cream tubs – bought used, so they didn't have to eat their weight in ice cream – local workers crafted their own punching tools to cut the bottom out of around half the tubs. All the tubs were then mounted with a metal framework.
The tubs are angled downwards so rain doesn't pour in, but if a particularly severe storm hits, sliding doors can be shut to seal off the interior from the elements completely.
The tubs are translucent and create a pleasant lighting effect inside during the day. In addition, Shau arranged the tubs to display a message from the local mayor in binary code, with the intact tubs serving as ones and the tubs with the bottom cut out serving as zeros. The message states "buku adalah jendela dunia" (books are the windows to the world).
It's a lovely project, but we are concerned that the plastic tubs, obviously not designed as a building material, may degrade quickly and need regular maintenance.