Yangzhou looms large in China, as much for its physical beauty as the inspirational setting in some of the country’s most memorable literary works including the classic A Dream of Red Mansions. For generations, poets, novelists and artists alike have tried to capture the city in every imaginable medium, but probably none has done it quite like this new bookshop.
Design outfit X+Living’s Li Xiang has based the interior motif on Yangzhou’s scenic landscape of graceful high-arched bridges. The entrance doors, etched with extracts from western and Chinese novels, slide open into a room-set straight out of the hallucinogenic scenes of Inception and Doctor Strange, in which walls seem to extend upward and bend inward.
Volumes of literature, social sciences, and history line the sides of shelves that curve up towards the ceiling like the underbelly of an arched bridge – the entire construct dizzyingly reflected by a glossy inky black floor that Li says is meant to reflect a river.
‘Tributaries’ break off into adjacent rooms – these are demarcated by white concrete arches that evoke the sensation of underwater bubbles. In the children’s Picture Book Pavilion, itself styled like an animated version of Yangzhou, arches in the low-slung bookshelves pull out to reveal bijoux display tables, proving once again that good things often come in small packages.