X+Living's Shenzhen Zhongshuge bookstore spirals through history and literature

X+Living’s dreamlike Shenzhen Zhongshuge bookstore and retail space wows with a spiraling sculptural bookshelf, redolent of the twisting trajectories of time and history.

by Jincy IypePublished on : Nov 13, 2021

X+Living has conceived yet another surreal and awe-aspiring interior with their latest undertaking, the Shenzhen Zhongshuge bookstore, replete with a massive, cinematic bookshelf snaking and spiralling within it, illuminating the space as a sculptural piece. The installation is designed to relay the meandering journeys of literature and history, seeping visitors into a magnificent setting with a backdrop of myriad books spectacularly arranged. Located in Qianhai OCT in Shenzhen, China, the 1,300 sqm kaleidoscopic bookstore design seeks inspiration from the history of the city, emerging as an homage to the land’s creators. “Although the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone is only 40 years old, it has made great achievements that have attracted worldwide attention… The city has been forged by countless dreamers. Shenzhen Zhongshuge was born under such a circumstance to pay tribute to the creators of history on this land,” shares X+Living.  

Exterior of the Shenzhen Zhongshuge bookstore in Shenzhen, China | Shenzhen Zhongshuge bookstore by X+Living | STIRworld
Exterior of the Shenzhen Zhongshuge bookstore in Shenzhen, China Image: Courtesy of SFAP

“In 2008, I was on a study trip to Germany and encountered Anish Kapoor's artwork - Memory, which was then being exhibited; and in subsequent press interviews, I frequently recounted the impact it had on me. The artwork sparked a feeling that then ignited an urge that inadvertently shaped my initial ambition for design values. This hazy inspiration has often guided me in my designs to create a sense of atmosphere and spirituality, first as spirited, certain emotions, and then as form and symbolism, with function being properly integrated", explains Li Xiang, chief designer and founder of the Chinese design studio. On his experience of designing the library, he added, "When I received the design assignment for Zhongshuge in Shenzhen last year, I had led the designs for several completed Zhongshuge across China. In the process of researching the cultural background of this city, I realised that I could design a space which could become a symbol of Shenzhen itself as an inclusive and vibrant city of migrants, paying tribute to all those who have struggled to make history in this city. Thus, this retail space, which seems to have grown out of a giant art installation, was born. Straddling the earth and sky, it is examined as an otherworldly presence that creates a subtle experience of unease mixed with familiarity, making the space a proposition posing silent questions to the viewers.”

  • A massive illuminated bookshelf spirals inside the dreamlike bookshop | Shenzhen Zhongshuge bookstore by X+Living | STIRworld
    A massive illuminated bookshelf spirals inside the dreamlike bookshop Image: Courtesy of SFAP
  • The interior design and the giant art installation pays tribute to the creators of the city of Shenzhen | Shenzhen Zhongshuge bookstore by X+Living | STIRworld
    The interior design and the giant art installation pays tribute to the creators of the city of Shenzhen Image: Courtesy of SFAP

The bookstore cum retail design is functionally divided into a concept area, a forum space, a children's reading zone and a conference area. The former resides at the building’s corner, with a massive glass façade dissolving the spatial barrier between the inside and outside with aplomb, opening up views and augmenting the spatial volume of the space, allowing consumers and onlookers to appreciate the interiors from outside. The huge art installation frames the scene perfectly, “to portray an inclusive and open storytelling magnetism and urban temperament. In this artistic space, time seems to become tangible,” the Chinese designers relay.

The sculptural bookshelves and staircase lend the space a surreal ambience | Shenzhen Zhongshuge bookstore by X+Living | STIRworld
The sculptural bookshelves and staircase lend the space a surreal ambience Image: Courtesy of SFAP

The protagonist of the space is essayed by the massive bookshelf which lies on its side on the floor, flowing in a curved trajectory throughout the concept area, linking the entrance and the exit. When viewed from the front, the spiraling staircase here seems to appear as a clock dial, its handrails in the form of clock hands. This personified shape alludes to the “ladder of history that has been built up over countless hours, conveying the sense that history is being pushed through time at a rapid pace,” shares Xiang. Also an art installation, the staircase, in addition, doubles up as a functional bookshelf, “neutralising a strong commercial connotation and enhancing the charm of the place, like a huge fable waiting to be explored,” according to the designers.

  • The bookshelf doubles up as a staircase, which seen from the front, appears as a clock dial | Shenzhen Zhongshuge bookstore by X+Living | STIRworld
    The bookshelf doubles up as a staircase, which seen from the front, appears as a clock dial Image: Courtesy of SFAP
  • The handrails are created in the form of clock hands | Shenzhen Zhongshuge bookstore by X+Living | STIRworld
    The handrails are created in the form of clock hands Image: Courtesy of SFAP

The division of the space is done appropriately so, for a more exclusive spatial pattern to emerge, providing the main users of the space, the readers, an intimate and exceptional experience of reading. The display table essays continuous flowing contours akin to flowing water, once again, quoting the ephemeral nature of time’s passage in its design. The footfall also follows curved contours, permitting users to really appreciate the grandness and uniqueness of the space, grounding them and helping them gain silent, slowed healing.

  • The bookshop is divided to form dreamlike, contoured spatial patterns | Shenzhen Zhongshuge bookstore by X+Living | STIRworld
    The bookshop is divided to form dreamlike, contoured spatial patterns Image: Courtesy of SFAP
  • The unorthodox design approach breaks the often-monotonous nature of such bookstore typologies | Shenzhen Zhongshuge bookstore by X+Living | STIRworld
    The unorthodox design approach breaks the often-monotonous nature of such bookstore typologies Image: Courtesy of SFAP

X+Living also manifest symbolically, the words of writer Maxim Gorky, “Books are the ladder of human progress”, as well as Raphael's famous painting, The Academy of Athens, which displays cultural figures representing different disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, music and astronomy, congregating at the foreground of the ladder in search of knowledge and truth, within the interior design of the Shenzhen Zhongshuge bookshop. This is witnessed in the elegant bookshelves that line the forum area to become a towering ladder, becoming a sacred temple of knowledge within the theatrical space.

  • X+Living symbolise the ladder of wisdom within the elegant bookshelves, created as a towering staircase | Shenzhen Zhongshuge bookstore by X+Living | STIRworld
    X+Living symbolise the ladder of wisdom within the elegant bookshelves, created as a towering staircase Image: Courtesy of SFAP
  • Reflective black surface tiles further enhance the dreamlike essence of the bookstore | Shenzhen Zhongshuge bookstore by X+Living | STIRworld
    Reflective black surface tiles further enhance the dreamlike essence of the bookstore Image: Courtesy of SFAP

Superimposed doorways and layered floor lines are evocative of the richness and breadth of the Hall of Knowledge's spiritual essence. The simple light fixtures illuminating the space emit light ever so softly, amplified further by reflective black surface tiles, to create a warm ambience for visitors. Levitating tables enrich the surreal atmosphere here, enveloping readers in fantastical imagery.

The bookstore’s kaleidoscopic interiors envelope readers in fantastical imagery | Shenzhen Zhongshuge bookstore by X+Living | STIRworld
The bookstore’s kaleidoscopic interiors envelope readers in fantastical imagery Image: Courtesy of SFAP

Joyful memories and incredible hues of warm orange, hazy blue and candy purple take over the children’s area, further enhanced by simple lines and graphics that form a spinning Ferris wheel and a dreamy little castle with childlike brushstrokes for their little, wide-eyed audience. To make the space even more interesting for children, a popular amusement park carousel designed as a table takes space here, inviting them to make friends with the books. History, spiraling and twisting, advancing society and bringing it prowess and awareness, is condensed into the design of the hieroglyphic spiral ladder, imbuing the perseverance of dripping water through stone.

Colours and soft lines take over the children’s reading zone | Shenzhen Zhongshuge bookstore by X+Living | STIRworld
Colours and soft lines take over the children’s reading zone Image: Courtesy of SFAP

X + Living’s unorthodox approach to merging commerce and art with the sheer delight and peace that comes with reading, within the design of the Shenzhen Zhongshuge bookstore shatters the often-monotonous nature of such spatial typologies. This they do in tandem with conveying the brand's values, placing a novel experience into the hands of the customer and user.

“Shenzhen Zhongshuge is not only a place of tribute to the city's pioneers, but also a place of healing for learning knowledge and seeking wisdom. It is one of the countless tiny microcosms of Shenzhen, housing ease and immensity,” the designers conclude.

A quiet corner of the Shenzhen Zhongshuge bookstore | Shenzhen Zhongshuge bookstore by X+Living | STIRworld
A quiet corner of the Shenzhen Zhongshuge bookstore Image: Courtesy of SFAP

Project Details

Name: Shenzhen Zhongshuge
Location: Shenzhen, China
Area: 1,300 sqm
Year of completion: 2021
Design: X + Living
Design Company: X+LIVING
Creative Designer: Li Xiang
Project Director: Ren Lijiao, Wu Feng
Participating Designers: Luo Ziyan, Jiang Xueping, Wang Yifan, Li Baojun, Zhao Yuwen

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