Cramped and rather forlorn is how one would describe the Filipinas Heritage Library before its facelift a couple of years ago. The challenge given to design firm Studio Ong was to transform the 200-sqm space on the 6th floor of the Ayala Museum—the library’s home since 2013–into a more spacious and warm, homey yet modern library. One that’s inviting and, as is required of most public areas these days, Instagrammable—to attract young readers to visit.
Charisse Ong understood the assignment. First, the principal architect and founder of Studio Ong wanted a library more attuned to the present and can accommodate more guests. Pre-pandemic, the library could only allow 15 to 20 visitors at a time. Back then, the library also could not showcase its precious collection of maps and vinyl records. And while the library is known for its impressive collection of Filipiniana materials and important reference books, its layout was too traditional to creatively highlight these treasures.
After the renovation, the library can now entertain 41 visitors at a time—although it is still limiting guests to a maximum of 27 at the moment, in order that social distancing can be observed. Ong and her team reconfigured the layout, putting user experience as a major consideration in the rezoning. But they also made sure the librarians and staff are comfortable in their place of work, and the books are protected from the heat of the sun.
The library has a roundabout design, featuring a glass box in the middle, holding the Roderick Hall book collection. Hall, who passed away early this year, was one of the library’s beloved supporters and patrons. “You get a view of the glass box on all four sides, so the whole space is Instagrammable,” says Ong. The glass box was built in such a way that it hides a column at the center that would otherwise be an obstruction.
To achieve the required warm, homey vibe, Studio Ong employed a lot of wood in their design. “We went with oak, which has a lighter palette. Dark colors tend to make the space look heavy and cramped,” Ong offers.
The space now evokes a contemporary but very Filipino vibe, thanks to the furniture pieces by Vito Selma and the lighting fixtures from Green Group Inc. “We took inspiration from the capiz lights that hang in many Filipino homes. These add a sense of homeyness to the space,” Ong says. She also made sure to squeeze in splashes of orange in the overall aesthetic, orange being the Filipinas Heritage Library’s brand color.
Guests have an option to read at the tables and desks provided or opt to take the stadium seats. It also has a comfortable audio lounge where the library’s vinyl records collection are displayed. Need to make a call? The place has been outfitted with a phone booth so other guests are not disturbed when a visitor needs to use their mobile.
[Filipinas Heritage Library is located at the 6F Ayala Museum Makati Avenue corner De la Rosa Street Greenbelt Park, Makati City. It’s open from Wednesday to Saturday 10 AM to 5:30 PM. Book your visit via the FHL website filipinaslibrary.org.ph/booking.]