Wutopia Lab’s Shanghai Bookstore borrows from Chinese garden design

Perforated aluminum and quartz stone shelves also serve as partitions in this maze-like Shanghai bookstore created by local architecture studio Wutopia Lab.


The 452 square meter bookstore, which opened last month, is located at the foot of a recently completed brick red office building called Cifi Xintiandi (called “The Roof” in English) by Ateliers Jean Nouvel.

The bookstore is located at the bottom of a red brick office building

The interiors, composed of interconnected spaces resembling caves, dotted with seats, a pond, small trees and potted plants, were designed by Wutopia Lab for the real estate developers of the CIFI group.

“The customer, Mr. Lin from CIFI Group, wants to set up a special bookstore,” said Wutopia Lab founder Yu Ting.

“He felt that most of the bookstores we come across every day only sell books and a few cultural and creative products. He wanted to create a bookstore that showcases a lifestyle and that is able to combine flowers, wine, tea and carefully selected books.

The Chinese name of the bookstore is pronounced Er You
Cave-like spaces are present in the store

The Chinese name of the bookstore is 二 酉, pronounced Er You. “Er” in Chinese indicates the number “two”, while the “you” refers to the Big You and Little You mountains – the site where scholars are said to have preserved books from the burning of Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang in 213 AEC.

“It is a symbol of the continuity of Chinese culture in the future,” Ting said of the story. “Taking the two mountains as the theme of my design, I decided to spatialize the two abstract and symbolic mountains in the bookstore.”

Wutopia Lab installed a shelf made of white panels
At the entrance of the store is a shelf made of superimposed panels

The first mountain takes the form of a shelf made of layered panels of white engineered quartz stone. Located at the entrance to the store, this “little mountain” serves as the front door to a room with an elliptical table at its center.

Light from the interior filters through the stone wall to draw shoppers inside, where they will find new and recommended titles from the bookstore.

The concept of framing the views is borrowed from the traditional Chinese design of the gardens.
A large circular window frames the pleasure garden

To the left of the small mountain area, a pleasure garden which contains a well and a “drip source” is partially hidden in a triangular room.

The garden lounge is visible through a low opening from the small mountain lounge and through a large circular window on the other side, at the entrance to the main bookstore space.

According to the architects, the concept of framing the views inside is borrowed from the traditional design of Chinese gardens.

The second “mountain”, located in the center of the bookstore, is never seen from the outside. Instead, visitors only experience the interior of the mountain, which is designed as a series of caves.

The caves are formed by shelves in perforated aluminum panels in burgundy color. These shelves double as room dividers and are organized so that patrons can explore the bookstore as a series of small, intimate spaces.

Wutopia Lab installed perforated aluminum panels in the store
The caves are formed from perforated aluminum panels

“The Big You Mountain is invisible because it’s too big,” Ting explained. “As the old saying goes, you can’t see the true face of the mountain, just be thankful that you are on the mountain.”

“I summed up the interconnected caves in the space experience we’re used to, rather than a realistic simulation,” he continued.

“The continuous burgundy perforated aluminum panels forming the caves and the shelves forming various corners and seating areas are actually the interlocking caves of Big You Mountain. There are surprises everywhere and identical views every step of the way.”

Wutopia Lab installed a circular table that provides refreshments
A reading area in the main space

The main space of the Big You Mountain is divided into two areas – one is dedicated to reading, with plenty of nooks and quiet seating, and the other is devoted to a living space populated by a long dining table. semi-circular common bench with chairs.

The tables provide a place for patrons to sit and read while enjoying the scent of burning incense and drinking coffee, tea or wine.

Wutopia Lab wanted to make a special bookstore
Visitors can enjoy a drink at the circular table

A hidden circular room sits in the center of the floor plan between the two “mountains”.

“The circular space between the two mountains is the secret place,” Ting said. “It is the private space of the bookseller, like a pitcher, in which there is heaven and earth, mountains, rocks, pines, books, wine and himself – a cave in the middle of the Shanghai glitz and glamor. “

Wutopia Lab is a local architecture studio in Shanghai
The bookstore is made up of different reading spaces

Believing that bookstores should serve as cultural places attracting a large audience, the Shanghai-based company Ting’s has designed a number of experimental bookstores.

Elsewhere in the city, the company transformed Building 25 of the Sinan Mansions into a bookstore that draws inspiration from the human body and mind, while in Wuhan, the renovation of the Hubei Foreign Language Bookstore studio involved the insertion of a shard-like glass skylight that pierced through her six stories.

The photograph is by CreatAR Images.

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