Riga based architecture practice GAISS were invited to reimagine the children’s reading room within the National Library of Latvia. The goal for the refurbishment was to create an environment that encourages children to discover the joy of leafing through a book. This task was approached by thoughtfully positioning playful and engaging elements within the space to support various types of reading experience. Thus the act of reading is spotlighted as both an emotional and physical process that contributes to all the senses.
The new design features floor to ceiling bookshelves that span the perimeter of the space. This makes the shelves easily accessible and books themselves become the main visual cue of the reading room. Six pine trunks counterpoint the regularity of the shelf grid and support hanging hammocks.
A feeling of spaciousness has been created while offering the possibility to easily transform the space to accommodate various activities. Flexibility was another important aspect that the redesign had to address. As the reading room is increasingly more often used to hold public reading sessions and workshops for larger audiences, the central part of the space contains movable furniture units and stacks of plywood cubes that can be rearranged to serve the occasion.
The reading room is suitable for readers of all ages. Everyone has the opportunity to find the perfect reading spot — at a desk, on a couch, in an alcove, in a hammock, in the playhouse or on top of a hill. Platforms of various heights and other pieces of “unprogrammed” furniture are scattered throughout so that children have the possibility to find the arrangements that support their needs the best. The space is also accessible for the youngest kids who cannot read yet, as they can climb into the tiny house or find one of the many picture books hidden in secret compartments.
The material palette for the furnishing was kept to a minimum so the colorful book covers can step to the forefront. Locally manufactured birch plywood surfaces are mixed with brightly colored elements - a shade of red that corresponds to the existing NLL wayfinding system.
Drawings by artist Rūta Briede take a special place in the interior, confirming illustration as an integral part of the reading experience.