SLOW Architects found a low-tech yet elegant solution to a small primary school’s need for a library and reading room in Song County in China’s Henan province. Strapped for space but in need of a place to store a growing number of books scattered around in their classrooms, the Tsiaogou teaching school sought to convert a cramped corner of the campus into a reading room for its 49 students. Instead of hiding the building away in a corner as originally planned, SLOW Architects created a small fan-shaped structure that wraps partially around an existing cedar tree and is raised to minimize site impact.
A site visit inspired SLOW Architects to build around an existing big cedar tree rather than in the campus corner. They envisioned a reading room that would be “treated as a cottage underneath the tree umbrella.” To minimize site impact on the root system, the architects built an 8-meter-diameter outdoor wood terrace below the tree canopy that’s raised and provides a shaded space for children to read outdoors. The library and reading room is also raised off the ground and constructed in an arc around the terrace and tree.
The 30-square-meter library and reading room is built to the scale of children and is only 1.8 meters in height at its shortest end to make the space feel like a special sanctuary for the kids, rather than adults. Unpainted timber is the main construction material used to minimize cost. The interior is lit via large skylights and solar-powered lighting. The walls are lined with built-in gridded bookshelves with small benches at their base. “This design makes the reading room not just a functional room, but also an interesting connection between indoor and outdoor activities that reconstructs the entire space of the campus,” write the architects.
Images © Rao Fu