Books are making a comeback. Yes, contrary to popular belief, print is far from passé. Try as they may, digital pages simply can’t replace the tactile quality or unique scent of a publication straight from the press. If you have a new copy of Frame magazine nearby, pick it up and take a whiff to understand what I mean.

Celebrating the surge in new bookstores worldwide are designers eager to turn the phenomenon into personal statements. Case in point is X+Living, which designed not one but three new bookstores in China this year. On page 142 of Frame 112, we showed how X+Living used books to break the norm and reach new heights in Hangzhou. Today we turn to another Zhongshuge bookstore, this time in Shanghai’s Réel Mall, where architect Li Xiang and her team created an urban oasis that invites shoppers to escape the bustle of Shanghai’s busy Jing’an district. Tucked away on the fourth floor of the mall, the store features a graphic grey and white interior that refers to the flow of city traffic and, more specifically, the zebra crossing. Despite this urban connection, the space invokes a sense of serenity and stability within a volatile world. Protruding from the ashen walls is an impressive grid of white tubes that frame and display books and magazines as if they were works of art. Across the concrete floor, bold white stripes guide visitors through the 1000-sqm space. 

Envisioned as city blocks, voluminous white display tables showcase the literary world’s latest offerings, confirming the permanence of print. A few steps farther, a narrow corridor leads to a leisure area for reading. Sitting on wooden benches under old-fashioned streetlamps, readers can imagine themselves pausing during a poetic walk through the park. Mirrors on walls and ceiling magnify both benches and bookshelves into infinity. The visual effect is worth, well, a million words.

This article is featured in Frame 114