White Comedy of Xi’an Zhongshu Bookstore

Design Firm: Wutopia Lab 
Chief Architect: YU Ting
Project Architect: Chen LIN
Design Team: Jie LV, Jianming ZHU, Mingcheng DU, Liyuan LU
Design Consultant: TOPOS DESIGN CLANS
Lighting Design: Zilu WANG
Construction Team: Shaanxi FuLei Decoration Design Engineering Co., Ltd.
Photography: CreatAR Images
Clients: Shanghai Zhongshu Industrial Co., Ltd., Xi'an China Movie Times International Studios
Project Area: 1886 sqm
Project Location: Xi’an, Shanxi, China
Design Period: 2016.09 to 2017.06
Construction Period: 2017.07 to 2018.05


Wutopia Lab recently designed an entirely white Zhongshu Bookstore in Xi’an, one of the most ancient cities in China which used to be the capital for thirteen dynasties, with 300 tons of steel and 30,000 meters of light strips.

We aborted our design of a direct entry into the bookstore, and created a glittering entrance in the commercial space on the fourth floor; this required to make free of the floor slab of fifth floor into the main area of the bookstore without destroying the main structure. We built a pillarless white curvy staircase, highlighted by a spiral white panel, surrounded by custom-made white acrylic walls. Readers coming from their everyday life, heading up the stairs step by step, and are encouraged by the spirit of knowledge and curiosity displayed through the books around them to enter the bookstore over the clouds.

The basic space of the bookstore consists of popular book recommendation areas and public reading areas. We decided to make a reading paradise over the “clouds”, and it should have a light and streamlined free space, but in order to follow the restrictions of fire codes, we had to challenge the traditional types and materials of the bookshelf. For the first time, we used 5mm thick steel plates to customize curved bookshelves. After precise structural calculations, the steel frame that is hidden behind the foundation is used as the support of the structure. The over 3,000 meters long steel plated bookshelf floats in the air as a cantilevered structure. Digital concepts and technologies are used in order to realize such a soft and free space: each piece of steel plate has been optimized through programming, processed by CNC machine tools, and then assembled on site according to the numbering.

The free flowing bookshelf outlined by a curve has a total of ten levels, making full use of the corners of the public reading area. The rounded chamfers leave the space with no sharp corner, the back panel is made by a translucent acrylic; whereas the book recommendation area of the white bookstore is to suspend the triangular steel plate with a slender screw, so that the books displayed above seem to float in the air. This is a brand new experience to the Zhongshu bookstore branches.

There is a pantheon in central of the public reading area. In the center of the floor structural beams stands an exquisite displaying rack for Zhongshu's “Book of the Month” selection, and can only be held by one person at a time. The floor slab here was replaced with a glass floor in order to mimic an illusion of water surface. The space underneath it holds a room for reading  meeting or a mini conference. This invisible academy and the visible pantheon together form the center of Zhongshu Bookstore — an oasis where the mind and soul can be rejuvenated and set free.

Zhongshu Bookstore's children's library is a crystal structure hidden in the forest. It was inspired by the trees and animal silhouettes of the nine-colored deer to protect the children’s Wonderland. Kids will find their own hidden entrances, a hidden world of playful tricks and caves, and have the skylines of the architecture, blue skies and starry nights. This is a world for children.

Zhongshu Bookstore has ensured that the core shopping area is not only a quiet zone, but also a motion zone based on the streamline and operation of the cinema combined with the coffee and meal service with more dining tables and booths. The bookstore, thus, is creatively merged with the cinema.

The design and construction of Zhongshu Bookstore which lasted 600 days is not only the transcendence of Zhongshu Bookstore itself, but also represents the great urban revival that Xi’an is currently experiencing. The whitest bookstore is filled with various kinds of ancient souls of various temperatures with pure thoughts, memories, and hopes.

I hope my architectural practices reiterate our everyday life through immense imaginations and dramatic artistic expressions. I also hop that it transforms reality into a “magic reality” and creates an illusion that uncovers bits of truths in our life. Miracle, raising from ordinary life, is believed to be both a magnification and a fated outcome of ordinary life — the stories of which can be colored and told in an extraordinary fashion. Zhongshu Bookstore pays the tribute and performs a white Divine Comedy to the capital of thirteen dynasties — Xi’an.