In the Internet age, one thought that is at the top of every bookseller’s mind is: do brick-and-mortar bookshops still have a place in a world where the majority of consumers are buying their books online? Reality however, proves that the situation is not as dire as you think, as evidenced by the number of bookshops that have taken the lead in adapting their business models to changing needs. Consider the recently-opened 4,000-metre-square Fangsuo Commune in Chengdu, or the Eslite franchaise from Taiwan. Now, Arch Studios is aiming to put the pleasure back into the bookshop browsing experience with the Rongbaozhai Coffee Bookstore in Beijing.
Built in the 1980s, the two-storey space is located in Liulichang, a famous Beijing district known for its traditional Chinese stone dwelling houses, most still selling Chinese handicrafts, antiques, calligraphy and the like to this day.
wraps the 300-metre-square space in floor-to-ceiling glass windows, creating an intriguing divide between the inside and out. Inside, books are stacked on iron bookshelves. As visitors manoeuvre their way around the space, they can also catch glimpses of the activities taking place on the other side of the shelf.
On the first floor, an ‘island’ café is installed at the centre, from where visitors can peruse the range of beverages on offer before retiring to one of many seating areas. “Rongbaozhai coffee bookshop is the only store where visitors can relax over a cup of coffee in the ‘hood. This changes the shopping pattern in Liulichang from purpose-driven into experience-oriented consumption,” a representative from Arch Studios notes. This raw, youthful energy is in line with the bookshop’s aim to attract a younger and more dynamic crowd.
On the upper level, activities revolve around a centrally located rectangular-shaped meeting room, which is enclosed by a switchable glass case to cater to different occasions.
Greenery is incorporated throughout the bookstore to mediate the inside and out. It also serves to break up the cold hard surfaces of the steel and concrete.