ISSP Debuts Mold-Breaking New Library Design

Daily News - Saigon/HCMC: Dec. 14, 2017

Inside the new library to be added to International School Saigon Pearl Elementary School in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, plans call for hung sculptures of whales and a partition made of interlocking honeycomb windows.

Another section of the new building will feature a live tree around a room containing bright, unconventionally shaped shelves: some allow students to walk through and under them, while others have lozenge shapes cut from the middle, where a student could read directly within the shelf.


The two rooms will make up the school’s new libraries, one for the school’s youngest students and one dedicated to the older elementary school students. But calling them “libraries” puts them in league with their more conventional peers. These unique learning spaces are robust visual and tactile ecosystems, as well as the new home of the school’s literature collection.

The Early Education Library will open in January 2018. Construction on the second area for grade school readers, the Elementary Library, will begin June 2018 to finish before the following academic year, beginning August 2018.

Much More than Libraries

“It is much, much more than books inside a building,” Lester Stephens said in an event held to showcase the school’s library concepts.

Stephens and the rest of the school’s leadership debuted the buildings in November before the public and members of the press, including City Pass Guide.


Stephens said the libraries were inspired by “the love of learning”. “They’re about the love of literacy, about the journeys that happen between stories.”

The school’s current library looks more like what you’d expect: a large, plain room with rows of shelves bearing books and an open area containing tables and chairs. Stephens said the new library is “a huge enhancement” from what currently exists.


It’s a “reimagining of what libraries can be”.

“Libraries aren’t just about books,” Stephens said. The school’s design approach takes a maximalist approach, incorporating evocative, convention-breaking elements like a live tree, which will be watered with rainwater collected through the new building. Stephens said the libraries are designed to build a sense of interconnectedness between the students and their environs, as well as between each other.

The new library will house the school’s collection of around 14,500 books.

Image source: ISSP