International School of Ho Chi Minh City – Primary School Library

  • area / size 5,920 sqft
  • Completed 2017
  • OUT-2 Design designed the International School of Ho Chi Minh City’s Primary School Library located in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

    The International School of Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC) has built a reputation on re-inventing the way students learn and respond to each other and their physical environments. ISHCMC engaged international architecture and design firm OUT-2 Design to create an immersive, inspirational library that would challenge established notions of primary school education. The library would be built within the school’s existing physical structure without altering the exterior – a restriction OUT-2 Design viewed as an opportunity to illustrate the benefits of new building materials and furnishings, spatial relations, and concepts for organization and display.

    OUT-2 Design’s finished library is a vibrant, textured space that stretches out in sympathy and delight for the development of the young minds it serves. The design prioritises an imaginative, interactive landscape where books, artefacts, and student works are parts of a whole. This reverence for nature and tactile learning reminds students not to neglect the physical world of exploration for the technical – a noteworthy lesson in a school equipped with an advanced digital program.

    By design and choice of materials, the library reflects the natural world, with areas devoted to earth, forest, and ocean. This helps extend the learning experience by providing visual and textural contributions. Furthermore, as the space is largely occupied by children, OUT-2 Design paid special attention to the selection of non-toxic, and environmentally responsible products – for example, the blue carpet, representing the ocean, is manufactured from recycled fishing nets. Furthering the narrative are the exposed building services, colour-coded according to the resources they serve (sun-orange for electrics, sky-blue for communications). Natural light is sourced from both sides of the building, but the windows are not the primary vehicles for mental escape; OUT-2 Design has organised the space so that the children mentally escape into rather than out of the library. This bringing of the outside world in subtly introduces the premise that they are already stewards of their environments and motivates them to rise to this lifetime of responsibility.

    The library’s layout recognises the unpredictable path of childhood curiosity and reserves unstructured space to let curiosity breathe. Open thresholds and gateways serve as entryways into the various subject headings and encourage traffic flow. With only three traditional chairs in the entire library (one for each computer docked to a table near the entrance), students are free to claim all available surface area as appropriate for learning; indeed, in feedback sessions they praised the combination of comfort and space, and the value of unlimited perspective. Areas that intentionally include traditional elevated platforms for group assembly and learning activities also include shelving and visual references to the local environment. The first of these greets the visitor from the curved entryway as a series of stacked green carpeted terraces evoking Vietnam’s rice fields and invites him or her to climb up and view the surroundings from an elevated vantage.

    Shelving resembles mounds or mountains that rise from and disappear into the carpet in a serpentine manner, sculpting the floor plan into different realms in imitation of nature’s natural boundaries. These units and their layout achieve the dual purpose of storing more books while increasing the free space. The abundance of shelving means there is space to show off books as well as artifacts as objects of art as possible subjects to engage a young mind. The shelving also encapsulates brightly colored pod-like spaces that invite the students to literally crawl into and be surrounded by knowledge. Large enough to accommodate multiple students, these can resemble warrens when students cluster to combine reading with the easy comfort of friendship. In feedback sessions, these spaces were clear favorites and were referenced by the students when they were asked to help with the planned re-design of their classrooms.

    ArchitectOUT-2 Design
    Design Team: Andrew Currie, Remco Hoogendoorn, Tran Thi Hoang Anh, Nguyen Mai Thao, Nguyen Tinh Dat, Peter Tu
    Photography: Patrick Carpenter