Initiated and crowd funded by IX Architects Pte Ltd, Project Books and Cubes is a learning space nestled quietly on a primary school campus, in a rural village in Siem Reap. Project Books & Cubes is a pro bono work conceptualized and designed for the children of rural Cambodia. With this learning space, the underprivileged communities will get empowered through education.
Though small in stature, it is an incubator of big dreams for the children living there. Nestled quietly on a primary school campus, students can use this library in all weathers and even during electrical shortages. Despite being in a pure cube form, the library embraces the entire site and complements other school activities.
The design concept is to create an engaging library for children. The 3 movable cubes that form the library are transformable according to the user’s needs - when pushed and locked together, it is presented as a linear library in the form of shipping container; when pulled apart, the library instantly transforms into a multi-purpose space, which gives teachers the possibility of conducting lessons in the embrace of nature, as well as promoting the arts through staged performances. Furthermore, being an easily-replicable design, it is a new typology made with local rattan material that benefits many inaccessible parts of rural tropics.
Socially Responsive Design
The library is not just a foreign architect’s philanthropic project in a rural community, but a product of community engagement and cultural exchange. Together with 5 other Singaporean families, we conducted the library’s opening ceremony and even put up a musical to demonstrate the flexibility of the design. For a community living under the poverty line, it is more than just a library.
1.INTEGRATION OF LOCAL CULTURE The project uses entirely locally sourced materials. The rattan screens were produced by the Rattan Association of Cambodia, the cushions were custom-made by the village women and the modular bookshelves were manufactured by the nearby village’s labourers. Whenever replacement of screens are needed, the village women can be engaged to produce replacement parts with rattan, thus boosting the local economy. By integrating the locals’ work, we hoped to instill a greater sense of ownership amongst them. This will also encourage better care of the library and help to increase the longevity of the library. This also celebrates the local handicraft culture.
2.ELEVATING QUALITY OF EDUCATION The library was designed to be a space of empowerment for underprivileged rural children. This new typology serves as a bridge between a lack of educational facility as well as the societal lack of interest to read. After the inception of the library, children are constantly drawn to the books and the villagers have also started to gather at the multi-functional space. It goes beyond just being a place for books, but also becomes an extended learning space and community centre for villagers. With the addition of this library, students can be better engaged and encouraged to remain in school, eventually graduating and being lifted out of poverty.
3.INSPIRING SOCIAL INTEREST Bringing people together has always been our core motivation in our giving projects. Our designs of spaces aims to draw people from different backgrounds together. Through this library project, we brought together various professionals, stakeholders, educational institutions and NGOs together and also raised general awareness of our cause amongst our partners. We aim to take the lead and pave the way for more Singaporean design professionals to step forward and contribute their design services to the underprivileged in the Asian region.
1. PRE-FABRICATED AND MOBILE The library is designed to be prefabricated, modular and easy to transport. We envision that this new library prototype can be replicated and transported to any corner of the world using local materials and equipment. With its compact size, the main frame can even be transported using a small pick-up truck. The modular bookshelves can be fabricated off-site and readily installed on site in a day. Every single detail in the library is carefully thought through. Bookshelves of various depths are designed to accommodate books and integrate child-sized reading pods. The differences in depth also become footholds for children to scale up to the reading pods easily.
2. TRANSFORMABLE The design concept is to create an engaging and interactive library for children. The 3 moveable cubes that form the library are flexible and transformable according to the user’s needs. In normal mode, the three cubes are pushed together and locked in place to form a linear library the size of a shipping container. The spatial quality changes when the cubes are pulled apart. The library instantly transforms into a multi-purpose space. This spatial setup gives teachers the possibility of conducting their lessons in the embrace of nature, as well as promoting the arts through staged performances.
3. INTEGRATION OF LOCAL CULTURE The middle cube features two double pivoting rattan screen doors with 36 unique designs in between the 3 cubes. These screens were produced by locals at the Rattan Association of Cambodia. The cultural element in this contemporary library celebrates the rich local craft culture. The cushions were also custom-made by the village women and the modular bookshelves were manufactured by the nearby village’s labourers. By integrating the locals’ work, we hoped to instill a greater sense of ownership amongst them. This will also encourage better care of the library and help to increase the longevity of the library.
4. ELEVATING QUALITY OF EDUCATION The library was designed to be a space of empowerment for underprivileged rural children. This new typology serves as a bridge between a lack of educational facility as well as the societal lack of interest to read. After the inception of the library, children are constantly drawn to the books and the villagers have also started to gather at the multi-functional space. It goes beyond just being a place for books, but also becomes an extended learning space and community centre for villagers. With the addition of this library, students can be better engaged and encouraged to remain in school, eventually graduating and being lifted out of poverty.
Climate Responsive Design
The local climate is blazing hot in the day and there are seasonal floods Power shortages are common, therefore the library was designed to be used off the grid. As the site is with society living below the poverty line, the library is designed with sustainability, simplicity and maintenance free, in mind.
1. GREEN SUSTAINABILITY The library is designed to be naturally ventilated, making the library a comfortable place in all weather conditions. On top of acting primarily as a sunshading device, the 36 operable and centrally-pivoting rattan screens add a touch of cultural context to the space. ”More Than Just a Library” is totally natural ventilated and independent of electrical source. Large overhang helps to shield against rain and sun, while also allowing extension of space from the library.
2. PRE-FABRICATED AND MOBILE The library components are made of modular cubes that can be replicated and transported site using local materials and equipment. With its compact size akin to a 20-foot shipping container, the main frame can even be transported using a small truck. The modular bookshelves can be fabricated off-site and readily installed in a short period of time. Hence, the process of construction is efficient, minimal site disruption and minimal pollution to the environment.
3. SITE INTEGRATION The library cubes sit on a raised slab which touches lightly on group, hence causing minimal disturbance to the site. Existing trees are all retained, which in turn creates shade for the library cubes. As the cubes do not have deep interior space, it provides opportunity for effective natural ventilation. Visual and thermal comfort is ensured by having adjustable roof overhang to adapt to different sunlight angle throughout the day. Acoustic comfort can be improved by converting the roof overhang into wall enclosure, to shield off exterior noise. Screen materials are made of rattan, which is a low cost natural material found in abundant amount in the village.
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Books and Cubes is a learning space designed for a non-profit organisation to inspire the children of rural Cambodia. Nestled quietly on a primary school campus, students can use this library in all weathers and even during electrical shortages. Despite being in a pure cube form, the library embraces the entire site and complements other school activities. Villagers had a part to play in fabricating the finishes for the library, thereby developing a sense of ownership amongst the overall community.
This also celebrates the local handicraft culture. The biggest gift lies in the integration of the library into the campus - the cubes sit on a raised slab that doubles as a performance space. This activity space extends the learning space beyond the conventional classroom.
IntroductionProject 2020 : 20 Architects, 20 Latrines, for 20 Families in Year 2020 Project 2020 is a social initiative by 20 Singapore architects and friends to design and build 20 latrines for 20 families of Village Bustatrav, Svay Chek Commune, Angkor Thom District, Cambodia. This project is in collaboration with the Cambodian Community Dream Organisation, Inc. (CCDO) under the WASH program. CCDO has identified these 20 families in Siem Reap province as beneficiaries for Project 2020. The project aims to raise awareness of the sanitation issue faced by villagers in the developing country. More information can be read on the project's Give Asia webpage here.
The Site The site is located northwest of Siem Reap, Cambodia, and in the Village of Bustatrav. The houses in the village are less than basic and many lacked sanitary facilities.
20 architects, students from Cambodia and Singapore, as well as industry friends. Our director, Ar. Chu personally brought together these parties to design and build the 20 latrines personally by hand. The project was not just a design project, but also a logistics endeavour especially since it was the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
20 DesignsThe team of 20 architects came up with 20 different designs which were applied to the 20 latrines, and later on replicated over another 100 latrines. The designs were constructed with brick for both economic and aesthetic reasons. The architects wanted to use a local material familiar to the villagers so that they can replicate the designs and build on their own later on. Moreover, the bricks have infinite layout possibilities, and only limited by one’s creativity. The latrines showcase the natural profile of the local bricks, with its terra cotta colour complementing the sites, which are typically an open space of bare earth and greenery.
20 HoursThe project team got down to work for 20 hours and built the latrine entirely from scratch. Students from the two local universities, together with the Singaporean and Cambodian architects, worked hand in hand despite meeting for the first time. They readily took on the architect’s drawings and did the hard labour and laid bricks according to the designs. The latrines were successfully built after a solid 20 hours, complete with a working sanitary flush system. It was a wonderful cross-border collaboration project between Cambodia and Singapore.
100 LatrinesAfter the project team built the 20 latrines with the 20 unique designs, the local villagers took on the designs and replicated them across another 100 latrines in the same region. Project 2020 has demonstrated that good design is not just for the privileged few, but should and can also be a service for the poorer strata of society. Project 2020 aims to not just give the gift of sanitation and hygiene for the villagers, but to leave a long-lasting impression and inspire the greater community through the day-to-day use of the toilet facility.
Volunteer Training Centre
Swiss Knife-like Multifunctionality
The project is highly multifunctional, much like a swiss-knife. It can take on many forms and rearranged for many purposes. The greater aim of this void deck interior design project is to create such great flexibility so that residents can use the space freely to suit their business and social needs. It allows home-based entrepreneurs to face lower barriers of entry into doing businesses near to their homes. As an installation in a neighbourhood, the Centre is a social hub to promote a stronger sense of community amongst the residents by giving them a flexible space to conduct meaningful social activities and build neighbourly camaraderie. The need for a dedicated workspace, situated nearby yet separate from home, has become increasingly pronounced as people are spending more time at home.
Versatile FurnitureDespite a size restriction, the void deck can serve multiple uses of different nature simply with the smart use of furniture. With a simple, intuitive action, residents can quickly transform a piece of furniture to meet their programmatic needs. When closed, the cabinet is a whiteboard or even a projection screen. When expanded, the lightweight metal mesh frames form a multiple-aisle exhibition space for users to hang objects for an art display. During an art market, sellers can display their goods on it as well. Users can also use the colourful Tetris wall as a display wall. The cushioned cube-shaped seats can be removed for use during a seminar, and be slotted back neatly into the Tetris wall once the event is over to continue its function as a feature wall. When the seats are removed, the gridded shelves can be used for display during an event.
Designed to Evoke EmotionsBy default, the Centre is an empty canvas. However, once the transformations take place, the Centre can evolve into a space that is beyond just a place to hold activities. The space is equipped with smart lighting and colourful furniture that can be used for an exhibition or gallery for users to appreciate art. The space is small but powerful. It can transport people into a different world when the ambience and setting is adjusted to the right mood. One day the Centre could be adorned with dim, warm light to create a lounge, and on another occasion, it could even turn into a virtual reality game room or a dark room for estate movie nights. The adjustable lighting also allows the operator to hold exhibitions which are meant to evoke emotions amongst the target audience.
The Centre was designed with the residents’ needs in mind. Surveys were done to find out about how much residents know about each other, and what they feel are lacking between them and their neighbours. The Centre holds programmes that involve collaborative work for all age groups in the community, creating an environment for social interaction. This project revolutionizes the concept of multifunctionality in community design, by maximizing the utilization of the abundant void deck spaces scattered across Singapore's heartlands. The Centre creates a central space that encourages residents to gather and engage in a diverse range of activities, while still maintaining individual autonomy of their own activities. With the Centre being so open and physically engaging with the community by having activities that can spill out of the Centre, a sense of cohesion is re-emerging, enabling Singaporeans to forge stronger connections.