The Librarie Avant-Garde in Nanjing has recently been voted China’s most beautiful book shop, which is rather surprising given its humble origins. It is located in a disused government car park beneath a stadium, formerly a bomb shelter. “There is an old saying in Chinese — turn something rotten into a miracle“, says the owner, Qian Xiaohua, and it by all reports, Qian has done just that.
Besides the markings on the floor, and the exposed infrastructure overhead, you might forget you are in a car park. The architectural fittings are sleek and modern, the space decorated with portraits of famous artists and writers, and columns carved with favourite verses. “I want people to feel like they are in an old-fashioned public library,” says Qian.
Not surprisingly, it is reputed to be the largest single-storey bookstore in China – just under 4,000 square meters. Like most bookstores faced with the competition of online shops and e-books, Qian has hedged his operation by including a souvenir shop stocking approximately 3,000 creative products, as well as a 200 sq meter café. Of course, there are ample places to sit (>300!) and read, and the shop has dozens of regulars who have adopted the space to practice “the religion of reading”. Close to Nanjing University, the bookshop reportedly has queues waiting at the doors before opening time.
This CNN article includes a fabulous reel of photos which highlight the unusual and successful space transformation.
We assume that the owners have carried out an appropriate review of the structural design of the car park to accommodate this new use. This article as well as our previous week’s blog on the 1111 Lincoln Avenue car park in Miami, brings to mind a very interesting presentation at IPI in Florida early this year titled “Garages are for Parking not Parties” by Bill Kavanagh, a Pennsylvania based structural engineer. It makes for interesting (and scary) reading!”