Sinan Books Poetry Store | Wutopia Lab

SAVE Sinan Books Poetry Store | Wutopia Lab

Project Name: Sinan Books Poetry Store

Practice: Wutopia Lab

Firm Location: Shanghai

Completion year: 2019

Gross Built up Area: 388 sqm

Project Location: Shanghai

Lead Architects: YU Ting

Design Team: Qinghe KANG, Xueqin JIANG, Jun CHEN, Jiqing MA, Dali PAN

Clients: Shanghai Century Cloud Culture Development Co., Ltd

Structural Consultants: Junfeng YU

Others: Project architects: Shengrui PU, Mingshuai LI, Design consultant: S5 Design Co., Ltd, Restoration design: Shanghai Construction Decoration (Group) Design Co., Ltd., Light consultant: Chloe ZHANG, Constructors: Shanghai Interior Decoration Engineering Co., Ltd., BXC Design Construction

Photo Credits: CreatAR Images

More Specs

Excerpt: Sinan Books Poetry Store is a library designed by the design firm Wutopia Lab in the historic site of St. Nicholas Church. In the past few decades, it was an office, factory, warehouse, canteen, residential place, and later became a club, restaurant, and finally was in a waste. A continuation of Wutopia Lab’s design style, magical realism based on antithesis, perforated steel plates, translucent, uncertain light, colour and dramatic poetry could be found in the poetry store.

Project Description

(“Text as submitted by the Architects”)

“The truth is like poetry. And most people fucking hate poetry.”

-The Big Short

Wutopia Lab has completed Sinan books poetry store with the concept of ‘Church in church’, using 45 tons of steel in the historic site of St. Nicholas Church in Shanghai. As the largest professional poetry bookstore in Shanghai, it offers 1000 poetry books in different languages. A continuation of Wutopia Lab’s design style, magical realism based on antithesis, perforated steel plates, translucent, uncertain light, colour and dramatic poetry could be found in the poetry store.

by Sinan books

The former Orthodox Church at Gaolan Road #16 is the second batch of outstanding historical buildings in Shanghai. It was built in 1932 and was not used as Church for a long time. In the past few decades, it was an office, factory, warehouse, canteen, residential place, and later became a club, restaurant, and finally was in a waste. The first time the designers stood on the site, they felt like a ruined maze. But after becoming accustomed to the darkness, with the knowledge of architecture and urban historical experience, the team could identify the traces of construction gained from generation to generation since the beginning. Various traces of the addition and decoration of this old Church at different times are squeezed together and integrated as one.

The entire project can only be implemented with the permission of the Shanghai Historic Building Protection Affairs Center. No existing façade, structural system, basic floor plan and distinctive interior decoration of the building could be changed. The façade and layout, new and characteristic decorations on walls and dome cannot be changed either. It is required to remove the unnecessary walls and floors, such as the steel structure interlayer built in the 1990s. The building space should be cleaned up to reveal its original image and keep the height of the main hall. Shorten the build-on part on the east side, aligning to the original part and tracing the original materials, such as pillars, floral decorations, walls, and flooring. After decades of wearing down, only concrete layers were left in the main hall. A small part of the old stone floor was discovered in the side hall, while others were terrazzo added in the 1970s. After repeated grinding and cleaning of the floor tiles, the oil pollution was still faint and regarded as the factory’s memory and persisted.

Church in Church

The designers believed that the poetry bookstore should be a sacred space in the city of Shanghai. It should have an independent spirituality and should not be based on the religion of the old site. Given that the dome could not be transformed, the lead designer used a bookshelf to create a new structure as a Church in the old building Church. This is Church in Church, a sanctuary for modern people was born in where once a sanctuary of faith. The designer chose to use plated steel plates other than the stone in the old site. 

The partition and stand of the bookshelf are welded as a steel plate grid system. They interact to form an inner space—a poetry bookstore. The bookshelf has no back panel, and the light from the dome can still spill into the bookstore. Different traces from 1932 to 2019 on the wall are faintly revealed through the bookshelf, including the Catholic-style frescoes that the owner asked the students of the Academy to draw when the group was used as a restaurant in the early 2000s. The steel bookstore and masonry church became a new integration.

With light strips on the wall, readers could figure out the original outline of the Church and tell which part is newly add-on. The East and west part of the Church was transformed into a café. Contracting to the silver metal bookstore, the designer used chocolate colour to make the café a calm and cosy atmosphere. 

The bookstore is an interior project that does not involve the preservation and renovation of the facade. We tested the wall by the side of the café, which is an inner wall but an outer one, to see if there are layers of paint covering the wall. After peeling off layers of paints, the texture and vicissitudes of 1932 were finally revealed.

The designer chose the blue film to replace the faded colour window. An infinitely transparent blue is rendered when sunlight spills into the side hall, dissolving the side hall’s physical sense and highlighting the main hall’s brightness.

Thirty workers built the steel bookstore in 80 days. According to the drawings, workers must first cut 5mm steel plates into 128 standpipes, 640 large steel plates, and 2921 small steel plates for 23 layers of crossbars. After being pre-assembled correctly outdoor, the pieces were moved inside and welded together. Finally, this bookstore of 388 square meters and a height of 9.9 meters was methodically formed, leaving a 50 cm gap from the old wall.

In the silver bookstore, a balcony was transformed into a golden pulpit. Here you can see how the steel bookstore and the old masonry church are interwoven without touch. The poet should recite aloud in this noble place. “when people come to the world, if they cannot make others better, they will make them worse.”-Eliot

On the day of completion, I walked up the spiral staircase shrouded in blue light. I stood in front of the pulpit and whispered my own sentence, “I love poetry, and I use it to create the world.” The Sinan Books poetry store I designed is a gift “For the infinite few” (Jiménez). It is the soul of Shanghai.

“Poetry is connate with the origin of man.” – Shelley

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