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Future Bookstore, Changshu. Futurism is something that people can’t see now

The idea is to give them a fragment of your imagination and let them interpret the future the way they want». In conversation with architect Samoon, Mur Mur Lab 

Future Bookstore in Changshu

Nestled in an ancient water town in China, this bookstore is depicting the future of literary spaces: spiked with imagination. Future Bookstore is located in Changshu, a county-level city in Jiangsu Province. Housed in a traditional pagoda structure, the seamlessly contrasting interiors, teleport you into a futuristic realm. Juxtaposing the past and the future, the bookstore exhibits a time-travel experience.

Shanghai-based architects, Mur Mur Lab developed the interiors of the store. «The client had the vision of a bookstore that could uphold non-traditional function within a traditional context», says Samoon partner-owner, Mur Mur Lab. Yuanjian Holding, a tourism developer established in 2003 commissioned it. In the past, the Chinese authorities have been driven to convert ancient countrysides into tourism possibilities – a gentrification of sorts. «It is a typical way how China is now developing the countrysides. «In the future, they want to create multi-functional environments with restaurants, bookstores, parks, etc», adds Samoon. 

The architects took inspiration from Andy Warhol’s quote «in the future a store would be a museum». The bookstore lends itself as a museum where books are for visual gratification instead of retail therapy. «It is not a traditional bookstore selling books. It is a literary landmark». The contrast of the futuristic interior in an ancient backdrop aims at grabbing the attention of the passerby, intriguing and inviting them to interpret the future of bookstores. «When the futuristic form interacts with the past, they both emphasize each other».

Future Bookstore’s neighborhood

Future neighbors are the two hundred-year-old Tieqintongjian Pagoda, one of the private book collection houses of the Qing Dynasty. The last dynasty in the Imperial history of China, lasting from 1644 to 1912. The Qing library boasts more than one hundred thousand rare book editions. The building, located in the center of Guli Jizhen, was built during the Qing Dynasty during Jiaqing’s empire, reciting two hundred years of history. Written in the mid-eighteenth century during the Qing dynasty, Dream of the Red Chamber was the last of the four great novels of Chinese literature to gain prominence.

Bluestone slabs, quaint buildings, Chinese pagoda architecture, su-style gardens and a flowing river characterize the neighborhood. Tourist attractions adobe: Tongjian Tower, Tieqin Bronze Swords, and the Gongnong Bridge over the river Yangtze. A river flows to the east and west sides of the town. Further, the reflection of houses on both sides of the river resonates symmetrical architecture, prevalent in Chinese spatial design.

Design inspiration – Memories and imagination 

Mur Mur lab’s musings of a futuristic bookstore were stimulated by memories. Upon hearing the term ‘bookstore’, they, in fact, would conjure up two opposing scenarios. One, a reading hall in an old library, with high ceilings, rows of shelves with book spines, and the scent of mildewed paper. While the second impression was of a bookstore in a crowded commercial center with modernist sensibilities. Drawing inspiration from scenarios of the past, and the present, the architects wove the future story. «Working in a historical location, memories became an important analogy in the design process. The memories and experience triggered the imagination». 

While designing, leaving room for interpretation was key. «Futurism is something that people can’t see now. Therefore, the idea is to give them a fragment of your imagination and let them interpret the future the way they want». For the Shanghai-based architect inner peace stimulates creativity. «I’m always in search of inner peace for my creative flow. I find that in stillness, and when I am drawing», says Samoon.

Further, they considered the idea of a future bookstore as one with no determined state of completion, drawing inspiration from the ‘undetermined’ and ‘impermanent’. The bookstore evokes the feeling of stillness – flowing into our daily lives – while narrating a monologue. 

Future bookstore is seventy-five square meters and it is spread across one level

Lampoon review: Architecture at Future Bookstore

This seventy-five square meters store is in one level. Displayed on transparent shelves, the books appear to float in the air. Recognizing the unpredictability of the typology concerning physical books, Mur Mur Lab devised a circulation strategy that would connect people to content, whether tangible or otherwise. Curated with only fifty culled titles, the books here focus on arts, humanities, history and culture.

Interpreting a futuristic cafe, a robotic arm is also installed at the store serving coffee to the visitors. «The aim was to create a space that doesn’t encourage interaction among people. This was our interpretation of a future bar», adds Samoon.

The original structure and interiors of the building were retained. Under the old roof structure hides a new roof. «They share similar logic of form, the ridge, the inner and outer cornice, and clear volume of two slopes. We didn’t break the old walls and doors. Rather, we added a second facade for everything. The idea was to create an image of the future that co-exists with the past», adds Samoon.

Geometric science at Future Bookstore

Beneath the existing roof, a white curved loop structure suspends across the store – marked as the signature installation. «In China, we have a culture of long vertical paper books. Traditional Chinese drawing books all had long leaves. It is very common to find this in china. The long paper from the past turns into a loop in our imagination of the future». The architects used a metal mesh to create the loop. Natural light pouring in from the outside filters through the mesh. «Metal mesh and semi-transparent glass are the two materials we like working with because they give you a chance to play with light, and are also clandestine», adds Samoon.

The loop of their imagination didn’t demand an investigation of high-technology elements to construct, rather, simple principles of geometric science. «Behind our form, we incorporate the use of logic and geometry. When you see the loop people think it’s some sci-fi structure when it is made with a wooden skeleton, wrapped with paper, and then finally coated with putty», says Samoon.

Mur Mur Lab

Samoon and Lee, are the architects behind the Shanghai-based studio. They are partners at work, as well as in personal life. Graduates of South East University, the duo met while pursuing architecture. Founded in 2015, Mur Mur Lab aims at transforming their learnings and skillsets into physical projects. «I didn’t have the ambition to be a well-known architect around the world. We just wanted to work and do something in architecture so we started the lab».

Mur Mur Lab sees design as the tool for urban renewal, as well as social and environmental improvement. It focuses on the projects of future stores, urban installations, and micro architectural space renovation. When working on a site’s architecture, feelings become an important attribute for the duo. «We not only create the form, but also the feeling. The form contains the feeling. Feeling emerges from you. Everyone interprets feelings differently and that’s what makes it so special».

Future Bookstore

Future Bookstore is located in Guli, in Changsu, a county-level city in Jiangsu Province. Established as a way of providing a glimpse into the future of bookstores, it exhibits fifty culled titles. Curated as a museum for visual gratification, the books here are not for sale. 

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

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check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us at [email protected]

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