Living in the midst of a 21st century city, buildings are dashing out from the surface of our mother Earth is just a blink of eye. Punching holes to the ground, altering the natural topography, cutting off drains, diverting rivers… all of these are done for nothing but one reason, to build the so called “buildings” for human, which by definition it used to mean “shelter”. But do we as human require that much of shelters? And does a shelter need to be so extravagant that it become wasteful rather than purposeful? If no, then why even bother invading the land for further development if the demand is so low? The answer to this question is just only two word, “profit” and “power”. Lands are being commercialized to gain profit, and buying power of people are increasing most are just to show that they are one level higher than the others, that they have the ability to purchase more and deserve more, that they have the money to do so. Sooner and later, the world will be so dominated with the concrete and glass and steel, as if the concretes are the new stones, glass are water and steels are trees. With this trend propagating down the line, human will start to have the problem of spatial shortage, whereby the living environments are just too cramped to live in, make it even worse for a place to work and play.

Arch2o-Garden Bibliotheca  Heffrence Teow Hai-p’ng  (4)

Courtesy of Heffrence Teow Hai-p’ng

In studying architecture, we commonly understand that “architecture shapes the world”, but what can architecture do, to help makes a better world?

What done is done, unless the law enforced and that it urged people to change that way. What more towards our field of architecture’s concern is, of course, how to shape the future of unknown and bring people to live in a better way. The real difficulty of this objective lies in how to make the public shifts from a common living lifestyle to a new one effortlessly, so that there is no restrains in enjoying their life.

To do this, the most important point is to look at how people live their life and how they want to live their life.

By having a site in the midst of Malaysia’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur as one of the most hectic lifestyle city cramped with skyscrapers and traffics, the site identity itself already call for a more meaningful scheme that tame down the surrounding context. As the brief goes for designing a cultural or community center, an iconic mega structure building to show off the identity of Malaysia is definitely a no because it serves no purposes is serving the public. The design must be something related to the lifestyle of local people and to make them feel proud of it. Hence, we must trace back to problem that most Malaysians have —- hectic city environment that lack of public spaces for people to slow down their footsteps. It is always better to make the place we work, as a part of the place we play. This will slows down the stressful environment.

Arch2o-Garden Bibliotheca  Heffrence Teow Hai-p’ng  (15)

Courtesy of Heffrence Teow Hai-p’ng

This reasoning gives the idea of creating a public space where people can occupies the space at zero cost and at any time. There is no extra effort to be given in order to utilize the space. But, a problem arises when determining what space to be provided at the expensive site in the midst of city that everyone is fighting for. It is a very important site, in which a good scheme will change the city environment, and a bad scheme will be doomed. Thus the proposed activity must be something meaningful, something purposeful that it is able to serves every single person around rather than just a certain group of people with certain interest, so that it is fair for everyone to be a part of the expensive site.

Arch2o-Garden Bibliotheca  Heffrence Teow Hai-p’ng  (18)

Courtesy of Heffrence Teow Hai-p’ng

This brings back to the analysis of who is around the site and who will be using that, and since people at the city center comprises of a wide range of users, it is almost impossible to target every single kind of users and specially tailored the scheme to suit them. Hence, what we can do is, to group them all into two big groups, namely the “reserve group” and the “outgoing group”, and they define the words “public place for a pause” differently. The former called for a library, and the later called for a park. These are 2 very contradicting spaces that all the spatial requirements for them to coexist seems to be quite impossible at first: a noisy but quiet environment, an outdoor but indoor space, a fun but strict atmosphere, a place surrounded with natural element but also with man-made furniture. But then again there exist some phrases like “all work and no play make Jack a dull boy” and “knowledge is the key of success”, and these give a very firm confirmation that these two spaces, in fact, are best meant to be balance and together. By mixing the function of a library with a park, it also promotes a more interesting and lively environment whereby we try to break through the conventional strict and boring reading style by replacing the chairs and tables with lawn and fresh air. It forms something like a reading garden or outdoor reading lounge that allows the beauty of nature to flow in and out of the formal library. Hence, reading will not be that boring anymore, you still can have a walk and enjoy the green; relaxing will not be that guilty anymore, you still can get a dip of knowledge and get to know what is happening around. I would like to call this new space, a “Parkibrary”.

Arch2o-Garden Bibliotheca  Heffrence Teow Hai-p’ng  (17)

Courtesy of Heffrence Teow Hai-p’ng

Besides, it is equally important as well to reintroduce this new program in a way that it attracts people to use it and carries the identity of Malaysia as a tropical country. With this, the façade of the building and its entrance play a major role. The entrance must be something dramatic, in order to break away from the conventional institutional building. The whole site is being excavated down to create 360 degree park below, with trees growing up forming a canopy walk above, connecting the public to the library. It also provokes the public to invade the bottom part of the library, to celebrate the rebirth of a new typology under the shaded walkway.

Arch2o-Garden Bibliotheca  Heffrence Teow Hai-p’ng  (10)

Courtesy of Heffrence Teow Hai-p’ng

As for the façade, it is best that it becomes a crucial part of the library itself, being responsive the indoor environment and outdoor environment and changes accordingly, so that it creates a more meaningful and playful façade at the same time. Bookshelves are directly attached to the glass façade, with aluminum louvers all around so that when books are being kept at the bookshelves, it creates an inspiring interior atmosphere of when you take out a book, more light will come in, giving the idea of the more you read, the brighter your future are. On the other hand, during the night, light will shines through the façade to the exterior environment, and the pattern forms of the skin is determined by the books on the shelves, creating another attractive idea of the more you read, the more light you shine to the others. Hence, it forms a kind of interactive façade invite people to play with it and to change it.

Arch2o-Garden Bibliotheca  Heffrence Teow Hai-p’ng  (5)

Courtesy of Heffrence Teow Hai-p’ng

With this scheme, it is an effective way to counter the problem that we previously talk about: the issue of spatial shortage in the future and also lack of public spaces, but now with this scheme we actually created 2 public spaces, in just 1 place. Besides, it not only shows an efficient use of space, but a meaningful architecture that is truly Malaysian and something purposeful at the city center as it serves right to everyone around. This might be the new trend of architecture to be introduced, the kind that make it an ease for public to use and enjoy using it, the kind that exist for a reason. We need to save more space on this planet Earth so that human can still live under the green shade, not under the shadow casted by skyscrapers.

Arch2o-Garden Bibliotheca  Heffrence Teow Hai-p’ng  (11)

Courtesy of Heffrence Teow Hai-p’ng

It is always in my thought that, “Architecture should not be called beautiful; It should be meaningful and purposeful. If it achieves those, then by all means it is already a beautiful piece of architecture.”

Project Credits
Project Name : Garden Bibliotheca
Students Name : Heffrence Teow Hai-p’ng
School : Department of Architecture and Sustainable Design, Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia.
Adviser : Ar. Lee Chor Wah, Ar. Quake Huay Tin, Ar. Mel Soong

Arch2o has received this project from our readers in order to participate in the Students week 5 event, you may submit your own work for publication in the Students Week 6 by sending it to igraduate(at)

Courtesy of Heffrence Teow Hai-p’ng

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