Metal Rainbow——Zhongshu Bookstore in Suzhou

Architects: Wutopia Lab
Design Consultant: ArchUnits
Chief Architect: YU Ting
Project Architect: Shuojiong ZHANG
Lighting Design: Gradient Lighting
Location: Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, China
Area: 1380 ㎡
Project Year: 2016-2017
Material: perforated aluminum, stainless steel, glass brick, ETFE, ceramic tile,
Photograph: HU Yijie, CreatAR(AI Qing, MAO Yingchen, SHI Kaichen)

Zhongshu Bookstore in Suzhou, designed by Yu Ting, is the newest one of its brand since the first opened five years ago.
The new bookstore is divided into four main zones and several subdivided zones. Aiming to create a colorful new world by using symbolism, the architect gave a unique character to each zone: The Sanctuary of Crystal for new arrivals; The Cave of Fireflies for recommendations; The Xanadu of Rainbows for reading room; The Castle of Innocence for children books.


The Sanctuary of Crystal

As an entrance, ‘The Sanctuary of Crystal’ is a space full of books and nothing else. The latest arrivals were arranged on the pre-fabricated transparent acrylic shelves, outstanding the presence of the books. Using glass bricks, mirrors and acrylic, ‘The Sanctuary of Crystal’ is a shining white space, luring customers into the heart of the store.


The Cave of Fireflies

After the whiteness, ‘The Cave of Fireflies’ is a darker tunnel connecting the main hall and the entrance. Customers will pick books here and follow the guide of optic fibers into the main reading area.


The Xanadu of Rainbows

After a relatively narrow space, ‘The Xanadu of Rainbows’ is a large and open space. Thanks to the large windows, natural lights can pour inside. Being the most prominent space, ‘The Xanadu of Rainbows’ provides a variety of experience. Taking advantages of different heights of shelves, steps, and tables, the architect creates a hyper architecturized and abstracted landscape of cliffs, valleys, islands, rapids, and oases. There are also thin perforated aluminum sheets in gradient colors simulated as rainbows installed in the bookstore. These 1cm thin panels divides zones of different functions at the same time bringing a mysterious and vague atmosphere to the space. These moves shape a Xanadu from ancient Chinese philosophy.


The Castle of Innocence

At the very end of ‘the Xanadu of Rainbows’, the space surrounded by white ETFE walls is the children books area. With the help of translucent ETFE, the Castle of Innocence is an inner world inside the bookstore. Many complex installments were added in the space, building a world where children can interact with each other and with the bookstore itself.
The perforated aluminum sheets shaped of windows play a huge part in the project. When half of the sheets were perforated, they lost the visual quality of shining metals. When multiple panels of different sizes and colors were fixed together, a sense of veil is created. This ambiguous and vague effects gave qualities to the bookstore. The distance between each set of panels is also of great importance. Some gaps between the panels are larger than others, thus creating spaces of different experiences. Again, with the almost translucent quality of the panels, the boundaries between each individual space is weakened. With the use of lights, the colorful sheets can also be seen from outside, making the bookstore an inviting destination.