Bookshop architecture the world over

Klein Dytham architecture,

USA, London,

Bar, Libraries,

Prize, Award,

A bookshop is a place where the explorer in all of us can enjoy all the excitement of “travel”, particularly shops featuring beautiful contemporary and modernist architecture. It’s hard to decide which are the world’s most architecturally interesting bookshops, but we have chosen to include the ones that follow in our itinerary.

Bookshop architecture the world over

City Lights Books - San Francisco
City Lights, named, of course, after Charlie Chaplin’s film, was founded in 1953 by Peter Martin and beat writer Lawrence Ferlinghetti along with the publishing house of the same name, and has had a great influence on American poetry and the American conscience. Located on Columbus Avenue in the heart of North Beach, San Francisco’s Italian district, City Lights is much more than a bookshop. It was the centre of the literary revolution of the Beat Generation and one of the most important meeting places for the writers in the movement, making it a true city “landmark” and a symbol of historical interest to the whole nation. Visited by tourists from all over the world every day, the bookshop manages to maintain the right balance between international fame and the desire to remain a symbol of alternative, independent, progressive culture.

Bookshop El Pendulo - Mexico City
The pleasures of books meet the pleasures of nature. A true place of the spirit, where plants grow amidst the books.
The decor, the railings, the trimmings are all dominated by the colour green, and the bookshop has the look and charm of a conservatory, a cultivated garden from days gone by. In the city’s Polanco district, it represents one of the best places to take refuge from the heat of the world’s biggest city. Though the bookshop has only a small selection of books in English, its open construction populated by trees is the ideal place to spend an afternoon in a place where everything is designed for people to enjoy, including the excellent coffee served inside.

Livraria da Vila - San Paolo, Brazil
Livraria da Vila, designed by Isay Weinfeld Architects, is a truly unique space in San Paolo. The Livraria da Vila bookstore project was awarded the 2008 Yellow Pencil by the D & AD Awards in London, the Spark Award in San Francisco, and an honourable mention at the World Architecture Festival in Barcelona. The focus of the project was to create a public place that makes the most of the product contained, the merchandising inside the store and its sales. The interior is designed to make visiting the bookshop as comfortable an experience as possible.

El Ateneo Grand Splendid - Buenos Aires
The biggest bookshop in Latin America, and the oldest in Argentina. The space it occupies used to be a theatre and a cinema, opened in 1919 under the name El Ateneo Grand Splendid. The building’s architecture is fascinating, and the renovation and conversion project by architect Fernando Manzone shows great respect for its original identity. Inside the building are three floors with the original lights and colours that have characterised the theatre ever since it opened. A vault identifies the coffee shop area, also used to host cultural events. Two thousand square metres of books, to be read sitting comfortably on the armchairs dotted here and there around the store, and a small library in the theatre boxes, all right on Corrientes.  

Daikanyama T – Site - Tokyo
British architect Mark Dytham designed the bookshop with Astrid Klein of Germany. The building Klein Dytham architecture designed and built for Tsutaya, a major Japanese bookstore and media-store chain, is in a low density shopping area in Tokyo, close to a number of buildings designed by 1993 Pritzker prize winning architect Fumihiko Maki. The complex is made up of three buildings 2 to 3 floors high, set back from the street. The architects designed the layout of the pavilions to save the best trees already standing on the site, creating pathways connecting them with the outside via the garden and with the inside via two glossy stainless steel bridges which reflect their natural surroundings.  

VVG Something – Taipei
Taipei is a very popular food and shopping destination which is now becoming famous for its bookshops as well, such as the marvellous VVG Something Bookshop, located on an anonymous little street across from a restaurant with an ethnic look which is run by the same owner. The 50 square metre bookshop is a tiny container for stories and objects of great simplicity, old world style. Proprietor Grace Wang used to use it as a storage space for her restaurant. She loved books and travel, and whenever she went abroad she would buy souvenirs, books, magazines and objects of all kinds and put them away in the storage space. The result is this fantastic bookshop/emporium with a little corner for sipping coffee served in Japanese teacups while leafing through a book about design or French cuisine.
On the subject of bookshops that are suffering from the crisis but trying to stay afloat, with the solidarity of people who appreciate and enjoy culture, in 2013 someone came up with the idea of asking for donations, however small, from readers and customers through crowdfunding. This is being done to combat the recession in the United States, and donors appreciate the opportunity to do something for a good cause and help save some rare treasures.

Cintya Concari

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