CĒSIS – This summer, RTU International Architecture Summer School students led by architects/tutors Theodore Molloy, Niklavs Paegle and Thomas Randall-Page built The Story Tower in Cēsis, Latvia.

The semi-permanent structure – designed to stand until the local library re-opens in a year and a half – was built using locally-sourced timber and Tetra-Pak, the aluminium foil-like material commonly used in milk cartons.

The tower is made up of three distinct elements: a floor, bookshelf and roof. It is conceived as an ‘urban scale lamp’, providing light and a place to read at all hours of the day. On winter nights the Story Tower becomes an ‘illuminated external reading room’. The project examines the status of paper books in the digital age and aims to ‘celebrate the individual reader and the notion of sharing and exchange’. Theodore Molloy believes the true essence of the project is the exchange of stories old and new, between people and books.

The Story Tower embodies the human scale of Cēsis, which is described as a town with an urban fabric that encourages residents to relate to other people on the streets, not only to buildings.

Design and build was a two week production process and only two days were spent on-site. This ‘accelerated and condensed’ annual building process gives architecture students the opportunity to design, realise and inhabit their own projects, says Thomas Randall-Page, which is a rare occurrence in design schools.

Timber is used for the structure and shelves. It is an inviting, warm material that will give people a comfortable place to sit and spend time around whether it’s hot or cold.

Daylight enters through a skylight and in thin slivers through the overlapping flaps of the Tetra shingles, giving the interior of the Story Tower a touch of whimsy.

The construction is a combination library, sunshade, umbrella and public space that proves the relevance of its urban impact through its multiple roles.

Photos courtesy of Chloë Leen, Evelina Ozola, Theodore Molloy, Thomas Randall-Page, Tonu Tunnel and the Building Works Unit