Until the 1980s, Shenzhen—now a bustling metropolis with a population of more than 12 million—was little more than a small fishing village on the southeastern coast of China.
In 1980, the government designated Shenzhen as a special economic zone, which allowed the city to rapidly develop into an economic powerhouse. For Shanghai-based architecture firm X+Living, Shenzhen’s transformation provided unique inspiration for the design of Shenzhen Zhongshuge, a 14,000-square-foot bookstore with a showstopping shelving system that doubles as a surrealistic art installation.
The bookcase, which runs the length of the store, resembles a spiral staircase turned on its side. “We designed this installation with a clock-dial-shaped cutout to convey the sense that history is being pushed at a rapid pace,” explains X+Living’s founder and chief designer, Li Xiang. “It also pays tribute to the countless pioneers who contributed to the city’s success.”
The massive, twisting shelf—the first thing customers encounter upon entering the shop—is made from plywood finished with a decorative laminate. “The materials are not complicated,” Xiang says. “However, we spent a lot of thought on the craftsmanship to ensure the accuracy and the perfect result of the spiral shape.”
Inspired by the work of artist Anish Kapoor, Xiang hoped to “create a sense of atmosphere and spirituality” in the design. Reflective black floor tiles and soft lighting create an atmosphere of calm, while clusters of chairs provide intimate seating areas. Elsewhere in the shop, rooms full of floor-to-ceiling shelves packed with books are a bibliophile’s dream, and a pastel-colored children’s area has a whimsical toy train set and a large Ferris-wheel-shaped bookshelf.