All too often, bookstores offer a static experience, comprising of uniform rows of books, good lighting and not much else. By all accounts though, Shanghainese design studios Wutopia Lab and ArchUnits had fun pulling together Zhongshuge bookstore – the name literally means ‘love book pavillion’, though it also references the name of the owner’s daughter.

With stylish chutzpah, the design bucks not just conventional norms of what a bookstore should look like, but also its location on the second floor of an atrium mall in an office tower in Suzhou’s new central business district. To impose order on the sprawling space, the designers have dropped perforated aluminium from the ceiling, moulding the panels into sinuous waves of soft pastel colours, with each shade of pink, red and green demarcating a particular zone. From the street level, the effect is of a metallic rainbow.

Low-rise white-coated bookshelves create a kind of bibliographic valley that rises through a series of shallow platformed steps – even these are embedded with books – and culminating in long dark-stained shelves that stretch around the central core. Thin legged reading tables and low-slung chairs provide convenient browsing perches, whilst the children’s zone comprises 3D cut-outs of residential porches, all clustered around a dark dome lit with optical fibres to create the illusion of a night-sky.