Novel design means new Cape Town library can write more storeys

26 April 2019 - 15:29 By Sumin Woo
Cape Town mayor Dan Plato flips through one of the library's 15,000 books. The building has been designed so that additional storeys can be added.
Cape Town mayor Dan Plato flips through one of the library's 15,000 books. The building has been designed so that additional storeys can be added.
Image: Luthando Tyhalibongo (City of Cape Town)

A Cape Town community's children and readers no longer have to travel 7km to visit a library.

Mayor Dan Plato cut the ribbon to a R40m three-storey building in Dunoon on Friday, opening the area's new library to its 80,000 residents.

"This is an initiative that must happen in each and every community," he said. "This library must be a beacon of hope, especially for scholars."

The building was constructed tall, rather than wide, to maximise land use. Climbing vines were planted so visitors can see greenery, and double-glazing allows natural light to enter the room without heating it. 

The library has been designed to be easily transformable – shelves are on wheels so they can be moved around, and areas have been left empty to double as study spaces. 

"It is a steel-frame building, which means the support structures can be knocked out," said architect Ashley Hemraj. "We can enclose the rooftop, add another staircase and get a whole new floor. We designed for future and current needs."

The new building can be easily reconfigured to fit changing needs.
The new building can be easily reconfigured to fit changing needs.
Image: Luthando Tyhalibongo (City of Cape Town)

The building, which houses meeting rooms, study areas, computers and 15,000 books, sits across from a secondary school and recreational field.

"We will engage the teachers, find out what assignments they're busy with, so we can help set aside necessary information for when kids come in," said Ninnie Steyn, the city's director of libraries and information services.

The eight librarians and assistants plan to host storytelling and digital literacy sessions, among other events.

"People can come here to learn, but also interact and debate," Steyn said. "It'll be a social space like a living room, an extension of the home."

The library, which took five years to plan and construct, is meant to be a "protective space" for learning and innovation, according to Hemraj.

"We can take this little piece of South Africa forward and expand," Steyn said.


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