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Situated in Semarang, Indonesia, the Microlibrary Warak Kayu was designed to increase interest in reading in surrounding low income neighbourhoods by creating a community gathering space.

Designed by SHAU Architects, the building is elevated like a traditional home up on stilts, which provides spaces for workshops, communal seating and meeting areas, as well as a fun-looking children’s swing. Upstairs in the timber library, reading is encouraged in a relaxed and engaging way, where kids can sprawl out on the suspended rope net floor, or they can play and interact with those on the ground level. SHAU explain further, “It is important to have this multi-programmatic approach to make the library a popular place, since reading alone is not yet considered a fun activity in the country.”

Kids reading on rope hammock floor in timber library
External view of timber library with overhanging eaves

The location of the library allows easy access to the river and a view of a popular tourist attraction called Kampung Pelangi. This was essential to a larger goal of creating enthusiasm and appeal to draw visitors to the library, and serve both the local neighborhood and larger area of the city. The library is part of a broader initiative which focuses on increasing reading interest, and is the fifth Microlibrary built in the area.

Garden underneath timber library
Timber stairs and timber seating underneath timber library

Alongside the goal to improve reading standards, is also to showcase Indonesian engineered timber products and manufacturing capabilities. The entire structure is made from timber with the exception of the foundation, footings, and roof cladding. This focus on using sustainably logged timber earned the Microlibrary Warak Kayu the title of Indonesia’s first FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) project certified building.

The choice for using timber as the primary building material offers a renewable resource that requires low energy to manufacture and has a low carbon footprint. The wood carries a low transport cost as it was locally prefabricated into units ready to assemble onsite.

Kids playing next to books in timber library
Timber library located next to river

The design process took a ‘bottom-up’ approach, as the architects first took an inventory of all available materials in the factory of the chosen manufacturer, PT Kayu Lapis Indonesia. With the goal of using what they had prefabricated and had in stock, they were able to minimize waste and site impact. Prefabrication in a factory creates less noise, dust and waste on site plus it speeds up construction time and allows for a higher degree of precision. Working in a factory also allowed them to repurpose leftover small-cut wood pieces for finger joint strip elements, to make sure nothing went to waste.

Kids sitting on rope hammock floor with kids sitting underneath
Kids reading next to timber brise soliel
Timber table in timber library

With regional temperatures of up to 34 degrees Celsius in the dry season, the building needed an effective way to keep cool, or to cool down. To keep the building cool, large roof awnings provide shade which are aided by a brise soliel, which is the open timber screen wrapping around the entire top level of the library. The timber panels are positioned at an angle to block out solar glare but still provide ample daylight to read books without the need for artificial lighting. To cool the building down, as there is no air conditioning, cross ventilation is used. This has the added benefit of keeping the building free of moisture, which could potentially damage the books.

Kids playing on timber swing underneath timber library
Exterior end view of timber library with timber brise soliel

The timber library was made possible by the Arkatama Isvara Foundation, who donated the center to the community. It is free to enter and is run by the local charity group, Harvey Center in collaboration with the local government.

Want to read about more inspiring projects like this? Check out our sustainable architecture posts.

Close up of timber brise soliel
Timber walkway in timber building
Timber brise soliel casting shadows on floor

Sustainability specs:
– FSC certified timber was locally sourced and milled
– Prefabricated to minimize any disturbance to the site, speed up the build time and to minimize waste
– Offcuts and byproducts were made into items like the brise soliel and joint elements
– Cooled by cross flow ventilation
– Raised building provides shade underneath and allows the upper level to utilise cross flow ventilation
– Large awnings shade the building from harsh solar glare
– The timber library is run by a local charity to encourage low-income neighbourhoods to read

External view of timber stairs leading up to library
View of under side of timber staircase and timber seating
View at dusk of timber library with lights shining through timber screen
Timber gate with view towards timber swing
Timber balustrades next to timber brise soliel
Images courtesy of SHAU. Photography by KIE and SHAU

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