by Jerry ElengicalNov 09, 2022
In an age where convenience trumps all, where purchases can be delivered from distant points of origin to a customer’s doorstep in less than a day, brick-and-mortar stores are facing considerable competition in enticing potential buyers. Of late, the field of retail design has seen numerous innovations that have strived to counteract this trend, either through clever interactive façade designs, immersive concepts, spatial narratives or a host of other methods. When it comes to certain kinds of products, particularly ones as compact and portable as books, the problem is further compounded by the absence of any real necessity for physical interaction with the item, prior to its purchase. Despite this, as many may attest, there is still an elusive charm associated with perusing through covers on shelves to find something that really piques one’s interest. The effectiveness of such tactics may vary across age groups, and Chinese design practice Wutopia Lab expanded on this notion when designing a bookstore catering to children and their parents in Jiangsu Spring Blossom Culture and Creative Town in the city of Yancheng in Jiangsu Province, China.
At first, the design team had reservations about undertaking the commission for fear of being typecast, as they had recently completed similar projects such as the Duoyun Bookstore in Huangyan. The design team at Wutopia Lab explains in a statement, “When the client showed us the concept they had introduced—namely the idea of basing the retail design on three animated films created by Italian artist Cristina Làstrego: Mirò the Cat, The Circus, and The Creation—we were moved by the magnificent scenes that were a product of her imagination.” They add, “We thought it would be possible to create a fairy tale bookstore like never before, using the origin of life as the foundation of our inspiration, combined with elements from the other two animations.”
Dubbed the Miro Store, the project is part of Duoyun Bookstores, a chain with outlets in Shanghai and Taizhou—both designed by Wutopia Lab. Channelling influences from Làstrego’s films and illustrations as well as traditional fairytales and myths, the bookstore's design has been articulated as a celebration of youthful innocence and imagination, striving to evoke these sentiments in the minds of patrons of all ages. These themes have been articulated through immersive installations that put a new spin on the experience of visiting a bookshop. On its exterior, the building features a cacophony of bright colours, ranging from rolling gold 'mountains' in perforated aluminium, to bright yellow walls, recessed Doric-style columns, and a projecting magenta enclosure that features a void shaped like the silhouette of a bird.
Spread across three floors, Wutopia Lab's spatial narrative begins at the street level with the 'Entrance Ark'—a perforated yellow hull-shaped form that is docked into the "harbour of a sea of books," according to the practice, which is led by Chinese architect Yu Ting. "All the fairy tales about the Miro store of Duoyun Bookstore start from here," they add. Compared to the yellow of the ark and the cooler tones of the structures surrounding it, the stark red of this space’s interior is a drastic change, captivating the senses with reflections and flickering streams of light that filter through the perforated aluminium enclosure. The otherworldly atmosphere produced by the firm’s design vocabulary, coupled with its innate sense of the whimsical, slowly begins to take shape, building up to the mesmeric feel of the interior.
From here, the space flows into an octagonal book tower that stands as one of the most impressive zones inside this retail space. The Chinese architecture practice notes, "During site surveys, we persuaded the client to include the octagonal tower, which was not originally part of the design. By the time we had adopted the idea of the ark, the symbolism of this tower stood out. It is the lighthouse that stands in the harbour, acting as a library-like book tower." Linked by a red spiral staircase, which cascades down through the centre of the tower, the two levels of this space feature bookshelves along all the enclosing wall surfaces. On the upper floor, the octagonal coffered ceiling has a skylight in the centre, concealed behind a reflective chandelier-esque element with an almost floral aesthetic. Moving upwards through the retail space, users will gradually experience streaks of sunlight flooding in — "Everything in the room starts with the sun," mention the architects.
Exiting the tower, a sharp contrast is seen in the abstract black forest—a landscape of dark rods that have been placed in a manner that bears semblance to clusters of tree trunks. These rods prop up the dark hollowed-out metal roof, riddled with perforations on its ceiling. "When the sun shines directly, light weaves through the green gaps and the black ground emerges in shimmering patches, as if in a forest. This is a semi-outdoor forest corridor that leads to the main space of the bookstore," says the team at Wutopia Lab. They continue, "At the end of the corridor is a cloud gate, a symbol that was also featured at the Huangshan store of Duoyun Bookstore. When looking in through the cloud gate, a new world beckons." Suspended inside this zone is an illuminated ring evoking the image of the moon—a mirror of the sun in the book tower.
Through the cloud door, an eruption of white and silver announces the start of the Cloud Terrace Café, a family-oriented space that exhibits a more futuristic theme. Floating platforms wrapped in curved panels of white perforated aluminium interlock with one another, connected by winding staircase designs and columns of brushed stainless steel. "Readers will feel as if they are walking through the clouds and resting among them. Here, we insisted on using silver and white to create a quiet and private atmosphere. This is because we wanted to give the reader a moment of peace before they pass through another cloud where they will be astonishingly enveloped by the climax of the Miro Store of Duoyun Bookstore,” relays Wutopia Lab.
Moving through the aforementioned cloud-shaped portal, visitors will find the bookstore’s highlight space—the drawing library. "We were particularly fascinated by the idea of separating contiguous rooms to form a type of 'house within a house' under a complete large space. Hence, we divided the picture books into four groups according to their themes into different individual huts. Inspired by the film and book illustrated by Làstrego titled The Creation, I used different levels of blue to turn the whole drawing library into an ocean. Four of the animals from The Creation: sea creatures, amphibians, birds, and mammals, were selected and abstracted to form the animal-shaped entrances of the huts. Each of these has been colour-coded to distinguish between them, but the interiors of the huts are all in pure white. This nested configuration creates a sense of insulation since "spaces for reading always need to remain quiet."
Outside, the final chapter of this experience is found in the form of a perforated crimson tent, inspired by both the film titled The Circus, as well as the crowning design element of Wutopia Lab’s Aranya Kid’s Restaurant, completed by the firm a few years prior. A pure white carousel occupies the centre of this structure, representing the spirit of an inner child, which is an underlying theme through the interior design. The fluorite floor of this area absorbs illumination at night, gleaming like a starry sky—an evocative phenomenon that inspires a fairytale-like sense of wonder.
The designers conclude, "A bookshop can be an attitude and a declaration of the way we face life. There is no such word as ‘easy’ in the adult world. But we can do our best to create beauty and maintain our innocence. This is the message we intended to convey with the Miro Store of Duoyun Bookstore.”
Name: The Miro Store of Duoyun Bookstore, Dream La Miro
Location: Yancheng, Jiangsu, China
Area: 1700 sqm
Year of Completion: 2022
Client: Shanghai Century Duoyun Culture Development Co., Ltd.
Architect: Wutopia Lab
Principal Architect: YU Ting
Project Manager: PU Shengrui
Project Architect: LIN Chen
Design Team: LV Jie, FENG Yanyan, XU Zijie, BIAN Chao
Design Consultant: TOPOS DESIGN
Graphic Design: MEEM DESIGN (XIU Zi, CHEN Siyu)
Lighting Consultant: ZHANG Chenlu, WEI Shiyu, LIU Xueyi
Construction Drawing Design: Jiangsu Mingcheng Architectural Design Co., Ltd.
Construction Drawing Design Team: HUANG Tianpeng, SUN Xin, XU Jian, HU Fei, MAO Xiaoli, MING Feng, LU You, HAN Shuang
Operator: Jiangsu Spring Blossom Cultural and Creative Town Cultural Tourism Industry Development Co., Ltd.
Operator Team: ZHOU Wenjun, MU Gengen, ZHANG Hongyu, YANG Wenjing
Development Side: Jiangsu Spring Blossom Cultural and Creative Town Cultural Tourism Industry Development Co., Ltd.
Construction Unit: Shanghai Lantian Building Decoration Engineering Co., Ltd.
Terrazzo Supplier: Holistic Opulent Terrazzo
Aluminum Panels: Shanghai Tengkuo Decoration Engineering Co., Ltd.
Customized Bookshelves: Zhejiang Meisen Wood Industry
Micro Cement: Shanghai Zhumeng International Art Wall Material
Furnishing: Ziinlife (Interior), Vondom (Exterior), W-Casa (Cloud Stool)