Architecture for books.

Brussels, Belgium, Paris, Lisbon,

underground, Bar,

A tour of European bookshops where contemporary and modernist architects have taken over the spaces of old churches, theatres and railway stations to create bookshops that are worth visiting even if you don’t want to buy any books. Firmin, the mouse in Sam Savage’s book, symbolically represents this magical process of cultural nourishment fed by the words and images contained in books which are, in turn, found in places where architecture places a primary role.

Architecture for books.

Alnwick: Barter Books – Alnwick Station - England
Barter Books, in Alnwick, in the UK: the best thing about this bookshop is the comfortable little sofas where visitors can sit down and read, such an important feature in any bookshop, and the lights, forming true decorative motifs on the walls and ceilings. This unique bookshop was opened in what used to be a railway station, and sells thousands of books on every topic, by every author. It?s easy to spend a whole day in there!

Paris: Shakespeare and Company –  37 Rue de la Boucherie - France
Over the decades ?Shakespeare and Company? has been visited by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and other heroes of the Beat Generation, and above all by dozens of kids who are happy to help out in the shop and read a book a day in exchange for a bed on the third floor. This historic bookshop in the heart of the Latin quarter, right across from Notre Dame, is not to be missed: a piece of the past surviving in modern-day Paris. Books are literally stacked everywhere and stuffed into every corner.

Bratislava:  Plural Bookshop – Panckova  18 - Slovakia.
One interesting detail of this big bookshop is the presence of steps on which you can sit while leafing through a volume, lit up by the skylight on the ceiling. P-L-U-R-A-L bookshop is a flexible space in which they not only sell books but organise all kinds of related events, including screenings, readings, concerts and workshops, all in the unusual setting of a former knitting mill.

Maastricht:  Selexyz Dominicanen Bookstore – Dominikanerkerkstraat 1 ? Netherlands
A former Dominican church becomes a bookshop, designed by Merkx+Girod for Dutch giant Boekhandels Groep Nederland (BGN). Completed in 2007, the project won the “Lensvelt de Architect 2007”- an important Dutch prize for interior design. The project was chosen for the successful result of the fittings ? with their simple geometric lines ? and the majestic look of the church: high-tech scaffolding creates a fascinating dialogue with the columns and mullioned windows of the church.?

Brussels: Cook & Book – Place du Temps Libre 1 – Woluwe – Saint Lambert - Belgium
?Cook & Book in Brussels is surprising even in the way the books are arranged, not just on tables and shelves but on the ceiling as well. It has lots of comic books, but that?s not all: Cook & Book is a true multipurpose space full of design items, chairs, tables and even automobiles.
The spaces are large and furnished with good taste and plenty of imagination. You can enjoy a complete meal in the bookshop, or just sip a glass of wine or beer. It is easily reached on the metro (Roodebeek stop) next to the Wolubilis, a concert and event venue.

Porto:  Lello e Irmao –  Rua das Carmelitas  144 - Portugal
Lello e Irmão bookshop, built in the Neo-Gothic Modernist style by Portuguese engineer Xavier Esteves, was opened in 1906. Books and music are sold on several floors, and its interior features hundreds of little details from times gone by. The bookshop is the perfect setting for any story, with its huge bookshelves of carved dark wood packed with books right up to the ceiling and its precious wooden staircase occupying all of the middle part, lit up by the daylight let in through the coloured glass of the roof. A number of crucial scenes in the Harry Potter films were sit here.

Lisbon: Ler Devagar – Rua Rodrigues Faria 103 - Portugal
"Ler devagar" means "Read slowly".?The space in this bookshop was created out of a building constructed in 1864 for manufacturing yarns and fabrics. The big open spaces of the factory have become a mecca for creative artists in Lisbon.  Advertising agencies, design workshops and art galleries now fill the space, which has become the perfect meeting-place, where customers can leaf through books and magazines, enjoy a drink at the bar, chat and eat together.

Cintya Concari

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