Books are usually a break from our ugly, confusing reality, but Chinese architect Yu Ting designed the Zhongshu Bookstore in Suzhou, China to get the job done before readers ever turn the first page. Yu’s firm, Wutopia Lab, constructed the Instagram-friendly, 1,380-square-meter space from 2016–2017. It’s divided the store into four stages, like an extremely well-planned acid trip. First is The Sanctuary of Crystal, then The Cave of Fireflies, The Xanadu of Rainbows, and The Castle of Innocence.
Books hang from the ceiling on clear acrylic shelves in The Sanctuary of Crystal, which gets its name from the mirrored glass bricks lining its walls. This is where the latest arrivals are stationed, and the room’s minimal design focuses visitors’ attention on the books themselves.
A dark tunnel filled with luminescent optical fibers follows the Sancutary’s blinding whiteness. The Cave of Fireflies stores best sellers, its dim atmosphere designed to push readers to the next room to peruse their findings.
The Xanadu of Rainbows earns its flamboyant titles. It’s large, open space functions as a reading room, but why would anyone be nose-down in a book next to the multi-chromatic aluminum outcroppings that color the space? For those who choose to be literarily transported from the stunning space, there are tons of nooks and crannies for private reading time. Wutopia Lab describes the spectrum-spanning room as “an abstracted landscape of cliffs, valleys, islands, rapids, and oases.”
The children’s book section marks the end of this Willy Wonka-esque reading rainbow. A simple white ETFE enclosure mimics a small village in the aptly-named Castle of Innocence. Tiny rooftops jut from the walls, each accented by pleasant pastels. It’s a relief after the atomic color palette of Xanadu. Look up and there is a sky full of glittering stars. Wutopia Lab says the space was designed for children to interact with each other, as well as the bookstore itself.
Wutopia Lab’s work often blends the boundaries between functional architecture and art installation. Zhongshu Bookstore follows The Plain House, completed earlier this year, in Wutopia Lab’s portfolio. The Plain House is a minimalist residence with a glass cube in the corner of the ceiling that lets in a shaft of light like that scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Check out more of Wutopia Lab’s work here.