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Public-Student Social Experiment: L45 Lorong Kurau

If you are finding a small, badass and naughty design that challenges the typology of the community library and student housing from both physical and social typology, here it is. L45. Situated in the heart of Bangsar, the corner house at Lorong Kurau offers many variations to the conventional design language of public. Ask anyone on the possibility of overlapping 2 functional spaces, a library and a student house, into a single space, one certainly couldn’t process the fine spatial line between the two spaces. According to online sources, the name is conceptualise as, L can stand for library, lot or lorong while 45 is the house number.

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I have to admit that my first impression of looking at the facade was some maximum security prison or bird nest farm! hah! Well, I blame the stereotype of bare-faced concrete that is being used for low cost or low maintenance construction buildings. But indeed, the design intention was delivered, a clean and minimal design that does not try to shout its presence yet respects the surrounding building masses. Eventually, one can expect the surrounding trees and climbers to grow and engulf the building beautifully.

There’s limited online architectural review of this project so far, am sure that many architectural professionals or students are yearnings for some floor plan or section drawings that best describe the genius space arrangement that engages personal and public spaces yet respecting both boundaries. From my personal discovery, this is carefully played by minimising the building forms and colours and allow occupants to directly interact and appreciate the very vivid planned allowance of view in and out, or through the building.

From Top to Bottom, showing the perspective from left to right of the corner house
From Top to Bottom, showing the perspective from left to right of the corner house

Designed by a collaborative effort between Wong Wei Ping and Ong Shien Chii of Tetawowe Atelier, the 50 percent of the initial 2,400 square feet corner house was torn down and built upon to increase the floor space to 3,066 square feet. As it is intended to have 2 different spaces to coexist in the same place but yet, the independent function of each other, the building has 2 different entrances. The entrance for the students is located at the narrow lane adjacent to the neighbouring house, while the public entrances to the community library are the barely finished metal grill gates along the perimeter that is easily accessed by the public. Both of these 2 zones are separated by a secured door that can only be accessed by the students who have the card access.

Back lane facade with randomized window openings, AC ledge, and CCTV cameras
Back lane facade with randomized window openings, AC ledge, and CCTV cameras

The kitchen and common table below are both accessible by public and students. There are basic, necessary kitchen appliances as well as coffee machine with an LED tv in this common area. Note below that you see sliding glass door and the foldable metal grill doors, these can be fully unfolded and hence extending the interior space to communicate with the external lawn space. The other perspective below shows the view towards the library. Celebrated by natural daylight coming down from the skylight opening, the randomized void between the books slotted on the metal grill mesh allows transparency in acoustic and sight, this effectively communicates 2 different spaces in the public zone.

It is said that the community library can house up to 35,000 books. Well, not too sure how was it counted, but it is certain this is quite a sizable community library for the surrounding neighbourhood area. The vertical void library concept has 3 flights of stairs, effectively leading to 4 different platforms that have varieties of spatial and volume feel. Though, I am not sure how are the books arranged.

There is also a small table by the library entrance with the similar foldable glass door and metal grill door previously. Thus you can imagine during the public event, the enclosed space can be maximised by combining with the outdoor lawn space. There are also CCTV located in the public transition space.
The picture below shows the student corridor towards their respective room entrances, which are adjacent to the community library zone. The metal grill has not only allowed transparency to encourage communication between the public and private space but has also allowed daylight to lit up the corridor spaces. One can notice the clean and minimalist design of the corridor allows the metal grill elements to stand out from the rest.As much as i adore the brilliant design work in social sustainability aspect to challenge the typology of spatial design, there is great concern in terms of thermal comfort. Noting that the entire building skin is built with concrete and with a large skylight opening, one will feel the greenhouse effect. The massive heat capacity of the concrete skin also means that the stored heat is discharged throughout the night. This made me curious on the energy cost of the AC as I recalled that the highest platform is significantly hot, even with the AC switched on lowest 16 degrees with full blast.

Another noted improvement i can think of is, as much as the metal grill concept has celebrated natural daylight and openness across the community library, the platform is really not comfortable to stand on! Too poky i suppose! Only if they allow people to wear shoes in the library or add on some walking deck perhaps?

As a green building consultant, though with much respect on the social sustainability aspect of the design, the house is nowhere near to the holistic approach of a tropical home. The lack of sufficient sun shading device does not only allow more heat beaming through the glazing but it also means rain driven by horizontal winds are most likely to be hitting the louvred windows then. This is what i observed on a visit during heavy rain, where water is leaking in from the louvred windows as there is no external shading on it. Definitely not a good idea to have water dripping into a library with 35,000 books!

Just more pictures below….

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Close up shot on the metal grill doors that can be unfolded for unobstructed access for public. Too bad I didn’t take the interesting detail shot of the hatch!

The public entrance to the community library via the main route, well shaded by trees, can expect a decent shading after a few years later. Below, the waste disposal corner behind the building.

Nevertheless another interesting aspect of the student housing are the rooms. These are not your ordinary four walled student hostel, but each room has different configuration of the spatial design. Coupled with high ceiling allowance, some spaces are designed to have multiple functions that save space. Ever thought of having your shower area beneath your bed? I do not have the access to all 8 different rooms with different floor space configuration (and of course I am very curious like you may be on each different configuration), but from below, we can see that the access to the top bed is carefully played to function as a worktop as well. This really stands out from the conventional bedroom design, let student housing alone.

Another perspective shot from the top.

And if you are curious with the internal space of the shower area, they are quite generous actually with a decent window for ventilation and lighting. I did not take many pictures here, but i suppose you can guess where is the built in wardrobe located from the pictures.Internal View of Shower AreaWhat i have written above is merely a personal point of view in terms of architectural design. But let’s go back to the saying that it’s not about the building, it’s about the function of the building. While one might label a community library similarly to the public library we have, L45 boasts a very direct approach to its followers in promoting various interesting books from time to time. Check out their Facebook Page here. IF you are a kindle or ebook person, somehow holding an interesting book that was contributed anonymously might make you start reading from the paper again. It’s always the wonder of putting yourself in thousands of books ranging from hundreds of topics instead of just downloading your choice of topics.

Image from L45 Facebook Page
Image from L45 Facebook Page

Information about L45

The L45 library is open to the public from Tues-Sun 3pm-7pm (Closed Mondays)

L45 provides 8 individual lofted rooms with ensuite bathrooms. Amenities include a shared common kitchen, laundry (washer/dryer), Wifi internet. The Bangsar LRT Station is a 20 min walk; limited street parking is available. If you are currently enrolled as a full time student and are interested in renting a room at L45, please forward all inquires to juita@gdparchitects.com

You can read more, or refer to more pictures by this write up in MalayMailOnline or Poskod

And of course, a lot of pictures by just simply finding #tetawowe HERE

  • cheerwaylim

    Lovely write up. I’m glad you touched on the pros and cons of the design and not just the visuals.