Wutopia Lab 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 making the fifth floor into the main area of the bookstore without destroying the main structure. Wutopia Lab built a pillarless white, curvy staircase, highlighted by a spiral white panel, surrounded by custom-made white acrylic walls. Readers can come in from their everyday lives, head up the stairs step-by-step, 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’, with a light and streamlined free space, but in order to follow the restrictions of fire codes, Wutopia Lab had to challenge the traditional types and materials of the bookshelf. For the first time, Wutopia Lab used 5mm-thick steel plates to customise 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 3000m-long steel-plated bookshelf floats in the air as a cantilevered structure. Digital concepts and technologies are used in order to realise such a soft and free space – each piece of steel plate has been optimised 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 10 levels, making full use of the corners of the public reading area. The rounded chamfers leave the space with no sharp corners, the back panel is made by a translucent acrylic; whereas the book recommendation area of the white bookstore has triangular steel plates suspended with a slender screw, so that the books displayed above seem to float in the air.
There is a pantheon in the centre of the public reading area. In the centre of the floor structural beams stands an exquisite displaying rack for Zhongshu’s ‘Book of the Month’ selection. The floor slab here was replaced with a glass floor in order to mimic an illusion of water. The space underneath it holds a room for reading, meetings or a mini conference. This invisible academy and the visible pantheon together form the centre 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-coloured deer that protect the children’s wonderland. Children can find their own hidden entrances, a hidden world of playful tricks and caves with blue skies and starry nights. This is a world for children.
Zhongshu Bookstore has ensured that the core shopping area is not only a quiet zone, but also a motion zone based on the streamline and operation of the cinema combined with the coffee and meal service with more dining tables and booths. The bookstore, thus, is creatively merged with the cinema.
The design and construction of Zhongshu Bookstore, which lasted 600 days, is not only the transcendence of Zhongshu Bookstore itself, but also represents the great urban revival that Xi’an is currently experiencing.