Wutopia Lab has recently renovated a Xinhua Bookstore and its annex room in the historic district of Yangzhou. The bookstore is redesigned as a multi-functional box for bookstore, hostel, exhibition, conference and tea house, which presents a possibility of connection of the past and the future of the city of Yangzhou.

Yangzhou, with a history of 2500 years, used to be the most prosperous city in China. This Xinhua Bookstore in Guoqing Road opened on January 28th, 1949 was the first of its branch in the city. The former of the bookstore was the Jianguo Bookstore during the period of the Republic of China and was took over after the liberation. The bookstore is gradually downsized and dilapidated 70 years after its opening so the government of Yangzhou and client were looking for a revival of the bookstore and hope it can bring a positive effect to the city renovation of the historic district.

 Slow Yangzhou x Xinhua Bookstore, China / Wutopia Lab

The site has a main building facing the street and a group of 6 old buildings with an inner courtyard among them. What Wutopia Lab has done is an integration of each building, re-branding it as Slow Yangzhou.

Based on the heavy grey color theme in Guoqing Road, Wutopia Lab would like to create an opposite space by using a bright white color theme for the bookstore. By borrowing the idea of “Palace of Screens”, bookshelves made of white acrylic are installed as screens, splitting the space like a maze. The translucent acrylic material of the bookshelves creates a visual effect of fog, which provides a sense of floating, weightless experience inside of the bookstore.

 Slow Yangzhou x Xinhua Bookstore, China / Wutopia Lab

The second floor of the bookstore is the children’s area, which follows the same arrangement of the first floor, but the material for bookshelves is changed to wood while the form comes from the contour of wood cabin. The floor uses bright yellow color and with the wooden bookshelves and mirrored walls, it creates a warm and wild space.

The lifting platform used to be logistics elevator is turned into a mobile living space, which is hidden behind the mirrored wall. The wall of the platform can also be used for exhibition.

 Slow Yangzhou x Xinhua Bookstore, China / Wutopia Lab

The third floor is a little collection space for limited books. The space is equipped with portable stainless-steel bookshelves and fixed bookshelves. Together with the mirror ceiling and black floor, the space becomes a boundary-less chamber.

Coming out from the collection area is the roof garden. A garden of bamboo is created with a form of ripple using weather steel panels, responding to its famous reference the Geyuan Garden in Yangzhou.

 Slow Yangzhou x Xinhua Bookstore, China / Wutopia Lab

The two buildings behind the Xinhua Bookstore was turned into a hostel and shared lobby space. The one with two floors is the hostel with 12 bedrooms, which are small boxes within the large hostel space. The hostel is like a box of chocolate and you’ll never which bedroom you’re going to get.

The building next to the hostel is the shared lobby space for group events. “We are asked to not to change the façade, so the roof becomes our focusing point,” explains Wutopia Lab. “In order to create a vibrant interior atmosphere, we chose to install colored transparent panels for the skylights.”

 Slow Yangzhou x Xinhua Bookstore, China / Wutopia Lab

The original courtyard was cleaned up and redesigned as the center of the project. “We left this space empty on purpose so that the emptiness is used to connect the bookstore, hostel and the back of the house,” says Wutopia Lab.

The emptiness is also responding to the messiness of the street outside of the courtyard. The ground and walls are covered with grey stone finishing, which is used to distinguish the courtyard and its surrounding buildings. Window openings, gaps on the brick wall and a moon gate bring street views into the courtyard gently that you can standing in the courtyard and experience the peacefulness. A red maple is planted on the center, responding the vast opening of the sky above the courtyard.

Slow Yangzhou x Xinhua Bookstore, China / Wutopia Lab

Curvilineal copper strips are mounted on the ground at the entry of the courtyard, implying the ancient Chinese story of Winding Stream Party. Following the Winding Stream are the three secret spaces we hide around the courtyard. The first two are little tea houses “Butterfly Flower” and “Peony”, which used to be storage rooms. The third secret is an individual hostel room “Misty March”. The three secret spaces together with the peacefulness in the winding courtyard fulfilled a sense of exquisiteness and delicacy here in the Slow Yangzhou.