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If China was once synonymous with the museum, the library has now usurped its position as the nation’s most prominent typology. However, the equally popular bookstore may be the ideal meeting ground between the two. Nowhere is this connection more evident than in LSD Interior Design’s Xi’an Fangsuo Commune: a veritable gallery devoted to books as objets d’art. And like any museum worth its salt, the 5,000-square-metre shop is an exercise in crafting entire interior worlds.

Within, the designers choreographed an immersive journey that begins with curated commercial exhibition spaces lit up by artificial light wells, continues to a family restaurant and children’s area and ends with a central “book tower.” This circular structure is composed of illuminated floor-to-ceiling shelves arranged in concentric rings.

“This is interior architecture with a graphic and tri-dimensional impact.”
Patricia Urquiola, AZ Awards 2021 Juror

A grand stairway hugs its perimeter and leads up to a mezzanine featuring additional programming. But the most spectacular move is just beyond. Like an arcade in miniature, the two-storey “book gallery exhibition” is as transporting as it is eye-catching. Defined by a distinct arch motif and wrapped in carved wood intended to patinate over time, the apex of the retailer nods to the great libraries of the world while winking at ancient structures, like Rome’s city wall and China’s barbicans, which similarly protected castle gates and military facilities.

Enclosed in exacting millwork that provides a subtle yet graphic glow, it’s a temple dedicated to tomes that rivals the rich, enveloping stories contained within their pages.

Team Kot Ge 

Winner: Commercial and Institutional
People’s Choice: Commercial and Institutional
AZ Awards 2021 Winner: Xi’an Fangsuo Commune

If China was once synonymous with the museum, the library has now usurped its position as the nation’s most prominent typology.

Explore more Award Winners

2019
Award of MeritCommercial and Institutional
Location
Leeuwarden, the Netherlands
Firm
i29 Interior Architects, the Netherlands
2022
People’s ChoiceCommercial and Institutional
Location
Saint Petersburg, Russia
Firm
Da Bureau, Russia
2017
People’s ChoiceCommercial and Institutional
Location
Location: Eindhoven, Netherlands
Firm
Maurice Mentjens, Netherlands