Zhongshu Bookstore — Xi’an, China
Doomsayers have long predicted the death of the bricks and mortar bookstore, but the smart money is on smaller niche boutique boltholes like the Zhongshu Bookstore of Xi’an. Tucked away on the fourth floor of the city’s Xuhong Plaza, the two-level all-white cocoon is a veritable stage-set that’s straight of central casting for a utopic sci-fi flick.
Shanghai-based Wutopia Lab sets the scene with a cuboid, mirror-lined entrance that looks and feels like a cross between a retro dancefloor and Star Trek’s teleporter room. Ribbed archways open out in different directions, spilling visitors into a glossy white space that’s anchored by a glass floor and capped with swirling ceilings that are meant to evoke the dreamscaped Baiyun Villa, or White Cloud Village, from an ancient Chinese tale.
Elliptical bookshelves follow the contours of the ceiling, as do mini-standalone display pods. There are no sharp angles, just curvilineal surfaces that swoop around the store, all the lines leading eventually to a floating staircase – its half-turned form splitting into ribboned steel that spiral upwards towards a skylight.
With so much visual drama at work, almost passing unnoticed is the bookstore’s comprehensive collection of political biographies, bestsellers and vividly coloured volumes for children.§