SHAU Indonesia’s Microlibrary Wins World Architecture Festival 2021 Commendation
In an increasingly digital age, encouraging children to spend more time in physical play and reading has proven challenging for parents and educators. The task of designing an engaging space for learning activities requires creativity and an understanding of design features that appeal specifically to children.
The majority of built environments lack features that cater to the unique needs of children to explore and experience freedom of movement within a safe, supervised space. Without conscious attention to these specific needs, structures are planned to exclusively facilitate the activities of adults, with an emphasis on efficiency and visual aesthetics.
SHAU Architects brings a unique perspective to this challenge. As the fifth completed project in SHAU’s Microlibrary series, the Warak Kayu library represents a compelling collaborative effort to serve low-income neighborhoods with environmentally friendly structures. The continuous improvement of each project in the series, which includes a dazzling structure with a translucent facade made of recycled plastic (the Bandung Microlibrary), has culminated in Warak Kayu’s victory at this year’s World Architecture Festival. Warak Kayu won three commendations in the categories of Civic & Community, Culture and Best Use of Certified Timber.
The award is warranted by the use of FSC-certified wood, a result of the collaboration with PT Kayu Lapis Indonesia. This integrated wood manufacturing company has a zero-waste process and a replanting program to replenish forests. The structural components are made of Bangkirai wood, which is native to the Philippines as well as Malaysia and Indonesia. This tropical hardwood is known for its strength and durability, and is suitable for heavy construction.
From a child’s point of view, the structure presents an open and welcoming facade, a marked distinction from the regimented design of a typical classroom. The building is elevated by wooden columns, a nod to Indonesia’s traditional “rumah panggung” (house on stilts) which creates a sheltered outdoor space underneath the building.
In Warak Kayu library itself, play areas integrate seamlessly with study areas, encouraging children to shift comfortably from solitary reading to group activities and socializing. The emphasis on the natural materials and lighting creates a calm ambiance. The wooden interior gives an inviting tactile surface for children to play and read, especially for very young children who are most comfortable on the floor. A hammock-like net stretches across an opening in the floor, enabling parents to interact and supervise their children from the open space on the ground level. The net also plays a principal role in the structure’s passive climatic design.
WAF 2021’s awards list sends a key message to the designers and officials involved in public infrastructure: that it is possible to design beautiful, cost-effective, and sustainable facilities that meet practical and cultural needs.