William Ti, the the principal architect of WTA Architecture and Design Studio, just wants people to go back to reading again. And no, he doesn’t mean iPads or PDF files. He means the smell of books, the romance of font on paper, the entire sensory experience.The Book Stop Project is WTA’s urban initiative project that aims to redefine the library concept for the 21st century. As a team, they deal with the social aspect of architecture to push its boundaries progressively, creating social impact.
First, they asked, “how do we bring the institution to the people?” Ti shares that the starting idea was to put it in a public space in a high traffic area, which parallels the Starbucks strategy of being just-around-the-corner. The second idea was to make the space a recognizable one, in which design comes in. Ti and his team also wanted to make it barrier-free and accessible: no doors, no registration. The common problem libraries face today largely involves their need of modernized architecture, the architect says. By changing the format of the ordinary public library, The Book Stop Project reintroduces reading to the Filipino.Currently, there are two mobile structures. The first one made out of steel serves as a portal as books symbolize a gateway that should bring readers into another world. Ti shares that openness was a factor in creating this, so they came up with translucent walls and exposed sides. The second one, on the other hand, is made from hundreds of crates of paletas. These are likened to Spanish steps that could also serve as individual seats perfect for reading. And sometimes, it also serves as an elevated stage where impromptu performers can utilize. (It wouldn’t be unusual for informal open mic sessions to be held there.)
The Book Stop Project wants to build a “third place” in Manila. Recognizing that a large part of our life is being home, going to work, or visiting the mall, WTA decided to create an alternative space to make reading a part of our lifestyle. Ti claims that we’re losing the discipline to finish books, and that it’s important that we give access to people to books who normally don’t. “There is a role a public library must play and it has to be filled. The reason why we move around and not stay too long in a place is for people to get used to it and then miss it. We want them to demand this from their government because they deserve it.”When they started, the team was caught off guard by the reception. While half-expecting people to steal books, they were surprised to see the project promote honesty in the middle of Metro Manila. Another great outcome was seeing street children hang out at the books stops. This not only gives them an opportunity to learn but keeps them away from the streets as well.
WTA wants to create at least five more of these stops. And, Ti and team hopes, that it will only be a matter of time before this movement makes massive waves across the metro.
Photography by Renzo Navarro