Zhonshuge Bookstore – Shanghai

Bookstores and libraries have long been on the endangered species list as many of us prefer to either not read ‘long-form’ text at all or read our books on our tablets, pads and e-readers.

But, against these odds, there are quite a few amazing exceptions all over the world. From old book emporiums with long histories and traditions to brand new enterprises willing to battle the odds.

One of the brightest stars of the latter category is the Zhonshuge bookstore whose Thames Town store in the Songjieang District about 30 km (19 miles) from Central Shanghai opened three years ago and quickly gained a reputation as the city’s most beautiful bookstore. With its nine reading, an egg-shaped white room with glass walls and ceiling designed by students from the China Academy of Art, the store attracted more than 1 million visitors in less than a year.

To continue its quest of proving that bookstores are by no means a business with no future, Zhongshuge opened another massive book emporium for what it calls a ‘trial operation’, on April 23rd, The World Book Day, in Hangzhou, capital of east China’s Zhejiang Province.

Designed by Shanghai-based XL MUSE Architectural Design (Shanghai) Co., the Hangchou store is, if possible, even more beautiful and breathtaking than the first store.

The designers refer to the British Novelist Somerset Maugham who has been quoted as saying that ‘to acquire the habit of reading is to construct for yourself a refuge from almost all the miseries of life.’

Every specific and distinctive area of the 1,000 square-meter (10763 sq.ft) store has been created to respect books and knowledge and to offer a refuge, a peaceful place to read and ‘rest one’s soul’.

Perhaps the most stunning area of the store is the white forest of books, a sparkling and shimmering corridor that leads from the Star Avenue Commercial Centres Phase 1 to Phase 2.

Glass, mirrors, hard surfaces and bright lights seem lift the book pillar off ground and make everything appear to be somewhat otherworldly, space-agey and startling. Narrow counters or desks intersperse with the trees f books, forming little creek-like breaks and resting places.

From this area, opens the massive main reading room with wooden book shelves extending from floor to ceiling on both sides, in what seems like an endless hall of books.

Comfortable reading areas invite visitors to sit down and immerse themselves in the wisdom, knowledge, entertainment and fun available in books. What we love is the complete lack of cash registers and sales material in the general immediate area.

We also love the magnificently fun kids’ area that should make a reader out of every child. The bookshelves themselves are shaped like carousels, cars, windmills, pirate ships and airplanes, with hobby horses and pastel-coloured mini furniture providing the places to sit and play among the books.

The XL-MUSE’s design team director was Li Xiang and team members included Liu Huan, Fan Chen, Zhang Xiao nd Tong Ni-Na. –  Tuija Seipell.

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