The bookstore designed as a surreal wonderland of Chinese culture
Zhongshuge bookstore lands for the second time in Beijing, creating an explorable reading space at the Lafayette department store at Xi’dan Plaza.
This is the third Zhongshuge bookstore store completed by design studio X+Living, with at least three more in the works at the moment. Spreading over 1,110 square-meters (11,948 sq. ft) this bookstore defines a multitude of unforgettable atmospheres through a combination of carefully selected design elements and a well-defined concept.
Why Zhongshuge? To create a striking, experiential book store connected with Chinese culture through its traditional symbols
Zhongshuge Beijing is designed to allow readers to discover hidden sceneries and spaces by creating dynamic pathways and unique layouts that they can explore in a fantastical journey through different imaginary worlds.
The minds behind Zhongshuge – X+Living
Li Xiang founded Weixiang International and the X+Living studio after 10 years of overseas studies and obtaining a dual architecture degree in the UK. She has devoted herself to interior design and creating spaces and boutiques that can be considered extraordinary artistic creations for cultural spaces, retail, and hotels. The studio has received worldwide recognition and many awards for its ability to eliminate the distance between art and life.
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Materials & Techniques – A flowing layout and ‘Moon Gates’
X+Living created a flowing path that connects various functional areas with different formats of space layouts, using techniques of expression that are typical of Chinese classical gardens to create bookshelves acting both as canvases and walls. The precept of changing scenery from different viewpoints, which is one of the most important characteristics of classical gardens, is maintained throughout the bookstore.
In the conceptual area, ladders create different elevations, transforming the space using perspective and adding a sense of wonder with visual illusions. Inside, arches nest and intersect, showcasing all the beautiful sceneries of the different areas while mirrors play with the idea of a phantom realm and create a surreal sensory impact with their reflections.
The circular doorways, an evolved form of classic ‘Moon Gates’, unfold gradually allowing glimpses of the inside spaces. In the case of the main entrance, inviting people passing by to enter the bookstore to explore and enjoy. By using those same arched spaces as built-in resting couches, the designer has joined function and aesthetic value, subverting a traditional decorative element and expanding its application range as a symbol and a link between spaces inside Zhongshuge. Expanded ‘Moon Gates’ made from circular doorframes also connect the spaces and function as a window into exquisite views while acting as traffic corridors.
Styles & Aesthetics – Surreal elegance
The lightness and clarity of the bamboo define a peaceful and relaxed environment. Its soft-hued wood, white floor, and reflective ceiling are in direct contrast with the somber black floor and subdued lighting found in the bookshelf room right around the corner.
What unifies such different and fantastical worlds is the sense of peace, elegance, and poise that permeates each and every one of the spaces creating a fluid current that takes you effortlessly from one to the next. The surreal effect of the mirrored surfaces, the elevated areas, and the glimpses into hidden spaces make the bookstore feel like a fantastical land full of wonders.
The spaces inside Zhongshuge are inspired by literary works and paintings
The store also includes a terrazzo lined cafe as well as a cultural and creative area inspired by a bamboo forest. Tables are arranged in such a way that the scene replicates the painting ‘Qu Shui Liu Shang’, where ancient people gather for a wine-drinking game.
The cultural and creative area leads to the study hall. This area offers a delicate experience, decomposing the path so that readers can meander through the grove and experience it as naturally as possible. The study hall, on the other hand, is an elegant and elated atmosphere, with a central symmetrical layout that conveys poise and grandeur.
The children’s library is an ancient city reimagined through the lens of children. Li Xiang used simplified lines and figures to create a cartoon city. The wavy lines used for the rooftops imitate the strokes used by children for drawing ancient buildings, thus accentuating the sense of living inside a historical fantasy work.
Design memento – A dialogue between the new and the old
By using classical garden design elements like the ‘Moon Gate’ and the flowing layout in innovative, creative, and dynamic ways creates a conversation between the present and the past.
Literary sources and Chinese symbols like the bamboo grove celebrate cultural identity and history while defining futuristic commercial spaces. The readers who enter the bookstore will undoubtedly feel transported into the cave of the Peach Garden and experience an amazing dream-like journey.
The writer’s comment – A magical promised land for book lovers
A personal favorite, Zhongshuge Lafayette Store feels like a magical promised land for all of us book lovers. The fact that it manages to beautifully pay tribute to very important Chinese symbols and imagery while also creating an innovative and dynamic design is outstanding. But the most important aspect of the bookstore is how it makes each space the protagonist of its own fantastical story. The rooms themselves allow interaction and discovery, creating a dialogue with the user that is every designer’s dream. They are not simply the stage in which the story unfolds, and that is for me what makes them utterly special.
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