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ISU design students head to Peru to build micro-library

March 07, 2014

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Micro-library model
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The selected design features a semi-enclosed structure with plants used to beautify, cleanse the air and shade the space.
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Students in Peru have begun constructing the library; ISU students will join them to complete construction and shelve the books.
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UPC students and faculty with members of the community organization that approved the micro-library design.

03/07/14

AMES, Iowa — Students from the Iowa State University College of Design and the Peruvian University of Applied Sciences (UPC), Lima, are working with a Lima community organization to develop a micro-library for the El Carmen neighborhood in Comas, one of the capital city's many informal suburbs.

The Iowa State students are enrolled in "Interventions in the Informal Andean City," an interdisciplinary spring option studio taught by architecture associate professor Clare Cardinal-Pett. Known as Studio Andino, the class will showcase its collaborative project from 3 to 6 p.m. today, March 7, at Design on Main, 207 Main St., Ames.

To help supply the micro-library, students also are collecting children's books appropriate for ages 3 to 12 in both Spanish and English, along with cash donations for the purchase of Spanish-language elementary school textbooks. Donations will be accepted during the open house and from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday, March 10, outside the Reading Room at the south end of the College of Design atrium.

The class will travel to Peru March 12-24 to help their UPC counterparts complete the library's construction and stock it with the donated volumes. They will also visit Cuzco, where they will meet members of traditional rural communities who have migrated to the city, and Machu Picchu, a Peruvian Historical Sanctuary and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

This is the third year the Iowa State studio has collaborated with faculty and students from UPC, but the first year they've designed and built a project together, Cardinal-Pett said. She received a $5,000 grant from the ISU Council on International Programs to support the expanded scope of the course, which focuses on urban informality—unplanned, often illegal settlements on the periphery of major cities.

This spring, nine ISU architecture, interior design and landscape architecture students have joined seven UPC students to design and build a micro-library with La Pena de Los Lunes, a sports and cultural community organization in El Carmen, Comas, Peru.

The group currently holds soccer tournaments in an adjacent field and eventually plans to build a community center on the property. Constructing the micro-library will make them more eligible for funding for future arts, educational and cultural activities, Cardinal-Pett said.

The primary goal of the micro-library is to provide a place where local children can access required school textbooks, because many families can't afford to buy them, she said. Additionally, it will be a place students can go to study, read, listen to storytellers and watch children's films, which can be projected onto the wall.

"Literacy is an interesting issue to intervene in," Cardinal-Pett said. "It offers another way of addressing neighborhoods that have formed in informal ways without engaging housing, which is not where designers can intervene effectively.

"By proposing the micro-library, we offered an idea that they probably never would have thought of, that can help resolve the lack of access to school books and contribute to the community's long-term goals," she said.

The two groups of students from Iowa State and UPC have communicated almost exclusively via Facebook to design the project.

"We researched informal urbanism and other micro-libraries in the U.S. and around the world, then worked with the students in Peru to understand the site and the building materials they have available," said Amy Fay, Wallingford, senior in interior design, who serves as the communication team leader.

The ISU design team developed two proposals, which the UPC students presented to La Pena de los Lunes to choose from. The option the organization selected uses dimensional lumber for the frame, cana brava (a type of bamboo) for the wall and ceiling structure, estera (woven straw) for paneling, deck boards for flooring, and wooden pallets as planters. Plywood nesting tables, benches and stools will be built to furnish the space.

"It's been a process of going back and forth with the students in Peru to determine what's cost effective and what they can easily repair or replace in the future without our help," Fay said. "We didn't want to bring in a bunch of U.S. materials that couldn't be obtained again."

The UPC students, who are volunteering time to the project over their summer vacation, purchased materials and began construction of "Micro-Biblioteca José Carlos Mariategui"—an early 20th-century Peruvian journalist, political philosopher and activist—earlier this week. The ISU students will arrive in time to help complete construction and install the furniture and book collection.

At the open house on Friday, the ISU studio will share photos of the entire process from initial planning stages through initial construction, along with posters, drawings and a model of the chosen design. They also are charting the project's progress on Facebook.

Contacts:
Clare Cardinal-Pett, Architecture, (515) 294-8711, ccardp@iastate.edu
Amy Fay, Interior Design senior, (712) 209-3114, aafay@iastate.edu
Heather Sauer, Design Communications, (515) 294-9289, hsauer@iastate.edu

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