The ladder of wisdom.

A surreal bookstore in Shenzhen

26 April 2022

A magnificent and surreal new bookstore has swung its doors open in Shenzhen, inviting visitors to take a one-of-a-kind walk-through space and time. Conceived by Shanghai based design firm X+Living, the Zhongshuge bookshop features a massive spiraling staircase laid sideways as both a functional bookshelf and art installation that's designed to convey the twisting trajectory of history and literature.

The striking new bookstore isn't the first to fit such a description from designers at X+Living, who last year opened a shop in the coastal city of Ningbo that used clever mix of glass and light to create seemingly infinite bookshelves brimming with color. This followed another opened in the city of Chongqing in 2019 that also used reflective surfaces on the floors and ceiling to create an utterly unique immersive experience.

“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 realized 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”, Li Xiang, X+Living studio’s creative designer said.

Its Zhongshuge bookstore for the city of Shenzhen might just be its most eye-catching yet. Inspired in part by Russian writer Maxim Gorky's observation that "books are the ladder of human progress," the installation stretches from the shop's entrance to its exit and is designed to serve as a functional bookshelf. A shiny display table cuts through its center to denote the "passage of time."

Viewed from a particular angle, the installation appears like a clock dial, with the handrails running along the length of the laid-down staircase taking on the appearance of clock hands. This alludes to the fact "that this is a 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," according to X+Living.

Also onsite at the 1,300 sq.m, Shenzhen Zhongshuge bookstore is a colorful and playful children's reading area, where bold lines imprint a castle and ferries wheel on the wall. A large glass facade allows passersby to appreciate the spectacular interior, while there are also dedicated spaces for forums and conferences inside.

Photo: SFAP