China may have already seen its fair share of stunning next-generation bookstores, but that doesn’t mean its creative force has stopped musing on the future of the typology. Case in point: Mur Mur Lab, whose contribution to the conversation is entitled Future Bookstore, leaving no room for (mis)interpretation.

Samoon and Lee, the designers behind the Shanghai-based studio, say that upon hearing the term ‘bookstore’, they would conjure up two opposing images. One, a high-ceilinged reading hall in an old library, where the combined effect produced by rows of identical shelves and the scent of mildewed paper could be called a ‘book graveyard’. The second impression was of a crowded commercial centre, a modern place filled with hustle and bustle. While one represents the past and the other, the present day, they contemplated what lies ahead for the future.

Mur Mur Lab got the chance to convey its ideas in Changshu, a county-level city in Jiangsu Province. They considered the idea of a future bookstore as one with no determined state of completion, drawing inspiration from the ‘undetermined’ and ‘impermanent’.

Samoon and Lee were handed a site alongside Changshu’s Tieqintongjian Pagoda, a building that dates back a few hundred years and houses one of the private book collections of the Qing Dynasty. Beneath the existing roof structure, the designers inserted a new roof that abandons obvious geometrical rules in reference to the curvature of the nearby river. Recognizing the unpredictability of the typology in relation to physical books, Mur Mur Lab devised a circulation strategy that would connect people to content, whether tangible or otherwise. The eave ascends and descends, forming both welcoming gateways and protective screens.