Wutopia Lab has recently designed an entirely white Zhongshu Bookstore in Xi’an, one of the most ancient cities in China which used to be the capital for thirteen dynasties, using 300 tons of steel and 30,000 meters of light strips.
Wutopia Lab has aborted the design of a direct entry into the bookstore, and created a glittering entrance in the commercial space on the fourth floor; this required to make free of the floor slab of the fifth floor into the main area of the bookstore without destroying the main structure. The architects have built a pillarless white curvy staircase, highlighted by a spiral white panel, surrounded by custom-made white acrylic walls. Readers coming from their everyday life, heading up the stairs step by step, and are encouraged by the spirit of knowledge and curiosity displayed through the books around them to enter the bookstore over the clouds.
The basic space of the bookstore consists of popular book recommendation areas and public reading areas. Wutopia Lab decided to make a reading paradise over the “clouds”, and it should have a light and streamlined free space, but in order to follow the restrictions of fire codes, they had to challenge the traditional types and materials of the bookshelf.
For the first time, the design team used 5mm thick steel plates to customize curved bookshelves. After precise structural calculations, the steel frame that is hidden behind the foundation is used as the support of the structure. The over 3,000 meters long steel plated bookshelf floats in the air as a cantilevered structure. Digital concepts and technologies are used in order to realize such a soft and free space: each piece of steel plate has been optimized through programming, processed by CNC machine tools, and then assembled on site according to the numbering.
The free-flowing bookshelf outlined by a curve has a total of ten levels, making full use of the corners of the public reading area. The rounded chamfers leave the space with no sharp corner, the back panel is made by a translucent acrylic; whereas the book recommendation area of the white bookstore is to suspend the triangular steel plate with a slender screw so that the books displayed above seem to float in the air.
There is a pantheon in central of the public reading area. In the center of the floor structural beams stands an exquisite displaying rack for Zhongshu’s “Book of the Month” selection, and can only be held by one person at a time. The floor slab here was replaced with a glass floor in order to mimic an illusion of water surface. The space underneath it holds a room for a reading meeting or a mini-conference. This invisible academy and the visible pantheon together form the center of Zhongshu Bookstore — an oasis where the mind and soul can be rejuvenated and set free.
Zhongshu Bookstore’s children’s library is a crystal structure hidden in the forest. It was inspired by the trees and animal silhouettes of the nine-colored deer to protect the children’s Wonderland. Kids will find their own hidden entrances, a hidden world of playful tricks and caves, and have the skylines of the architecture, blue skies and starry nights.