Building with books: ISU design students construct micro library with Peruvian students


Courtesy of Amy Fay

A group of nine ISU College of Design students traveled to Peru over Spring Break to work with students from the Peruvian University of Applied Sciences in Lima to build a microlibrary for the El Carmen neighborhood in Comas.

Carlea Schuler

A group of nine ISU College of Design students traveled to Peru during Spring Break to work with students from the Peruvian University of Applied Sciences in Lima to build a micro library for the El Carmen neighborhood in Comas.

The ISU students collected about 660 books in both Spanish and English for children ages 9 to 12. They also raised money to purchase elementary school textbooks for the micro library.

Amy Fay, senior in interior design, said that working with the students from Peru allowed them to have a “backstage pass” into the culture.

“We would work with the students all day, and then we would go out with them at night,” Fay said. “We really got thrown into the Peruvian culture faster than you would traveling on your own.”

The group of students was enrolled in a class called “Interventions in the Informal Andean City” taught by Clare Cardinal-Pett, associate professor of architecture. It is a studio optioned to architecture, interior design and landscape architecture students during each spring semester.

This is the third spring semester the class has taken place in collaboration with the Peruvian university, but this is the first time the students have developed a physical building.

Fay described the architecture of Peru as simple. She had never physically built anything with her interior design major, but she was able to catch on quickly.

“[Because] it was a simple structure to build, everyone had a part they could contribute to,” she said.

The trip took place March 12-24. The ISU students were able to help finish the building and the stocking of the micro library, as well as tour some Peruvian sites.

The students also toured Cuzco and Machu Picchu, as well as the valley cities along the Incan trail.

Kellen Pacheco, graduate assistant in teaching and research of architecture, said the architecture of the structures is impressive because you can see that intensive labor went into them.

The ISU students collaborated with the Peruvian students from the beginning of the spring semester until about a week before the trip. The students researched micro libraries around the world for inspiration for about a month before they started developing designs for the micro library in Peru.

“We would propose a design; they would give us feedback and then they would take that proposal to the community organization who would give them feedback. And then they would come back to us,” Pacheco said. “We went through that process about two or three times.”

The resources in Peru were different from the ones in the United States, Fay said. Since they worked in an informal community, the materials were plant-based.

“As a profession, architecture operates in so many ways,” Pacheco said. “I think that this is one of the ways we have to be humbled as students of architecture, because not everything goes according to plan, especially in these kinds of environments.”

The ISU students were able to help complete the project, but had to leave before the micro library opened for the children to use. They did, however get to see photos and videos of the inauguration ceremony through their exclusive Facebook group with the Peruvian students.