Parallel Studio creates Mariam's Library for young students in Zanzibar

Architecture practice Parallel Studio has punctured the white walls of this children’s library in Zanzibar with small holes, providing natural ventilation and casting shadows across books inside.

Named Mariam’s Library, the building occupies an empty plot in the village of Mwanyanya and is designed as an “inviting and inclusive environment conducive to learning, creativity, and community involvement”, Parallel Studio said.

It was developed in collaboration with the local Beit Ras School after the studio’s founder Mai Al Busairi visited the area and saw the community’s need for more books and reading facilities.

Mariam's Library by Parallel Studio in ZanzibarMariam's Library by Parallel Studio in Zanzibar
Parallel Studio has created a library for young students in Zanzibar

“Mai Al Busairi collaborated with the local community and the school principal to understand their requirements, identifying the absence of books and adequate facilities as the primary concerns,” Parallel Studio told Dezeen.

“This led to the conception of Mariam’s Library, aimed at enhancing educational prospects for students in Zanzibar.”

Mariam’s Library is formed of clay-brick walls and a corrugated-plastic roof, chosen to meet a tight budget and enable it to be built in only 34 days.

Aerial view of children's library in ZanzibarAerial view of children's library in Zanzibar
It is topped by a corrugated-plastic roof

Clay bricks were also chosen for their high thermal mass, which helps keep the building cool during the hot summer months. They are lined and painted white both externally and internally.

The addition of holes in these walls supports the low running costs of the library, with the perforations helping to naturally ventilate the space and reducing the need for mechanical ventilation.

Mariam's Library by Parallel Studio in ZanzibarMariam's Library by Parallel Studio in Zanzibar
Perforations have been added to the walls

Internally, the library comprises a single room divided into two zones – one for solitary learning and the other for communal activities.

Floor-to-ceiling shelving along one wall is filled with donated books and punctuated by one of two large circular windows that doubles as a sculptural reading nook for the children.

A stepped concrete seating area, which also forms a stage for performances, has been cast with a pattern of circles referencing the building’s perforated facade.

The building is topped by a flat roof constructed from a timber frame and covered in inexpensive corrugated-plastic sheets.

Wooden bookshelves inside Zanzibar children's libraryWooden bookshelves inside Zanzibar children's library
Floor-to-ceiling shelving lines one wall

Mariam’s Library is the latest in Parallel Studio’s series of philanthropic projects named Parallel Gives Program.

We believe in the power of architecture, art, and design to foster positive change and cultivate a responsive approach to global challenges,” Parallel Studio told Dezeen.

“Through the Parallel Gives Program, we devote resources and effort to serving the global community altruistically, reflecting our dedication to extending support and expertise beyond our immediate surroundings.”

Interior of Mariam's Library by Parallel Studio in ZanzibarInterior of Mariam's Library by Parallel Studio in Zanzibar
A stepped concrete seating area also forms a stage for performances

Using perforated walls is a common way to facilitate natural ventilation in buildings, particularly in warmer climates.

Other buildings that make use of perforated walls include the Mind Manifestation’s apartment in India and the Premier Office in Vietnam by Tropical Space.

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