Architecture MondayOctober 31, 2016
Some buildings are described having “good bones”. Others, well, while they may be solidly built the rest of their make-up and configuration leaves way much to be desired. A simple coat of paint won’t do the trick.
Fortunately, that’s not all architects and architecture can do.
This little bookstore started its life as an apartment atop a solid concrete housing block. Being at the top in this case wasn’t glorious penthouse living – the layout left the apartment dim and feeling cramped, with solid concrete (and structural) walls separating the rooms. These immobile walls left the layout mostly fixed. And so, perhaps counter intuitively, the architects chose to divide the rooms even further with a series of shelves and walls that integrate together like a giant piece of furniture. Where they could, they cut window-sized openings in those concrete walls, using them as desk spaces.
The end result is a lovely cozy warren of shelves, books, and reading nooks. Light from the exterior windows (and especially from the well reconditioned enclosed balcony) can penetrate deep throughout the spaces. Views between the little rooms create shifting vistas of people and books and light as you walk through the shop. Each alcove is rightly proportioned as to not overwhelm with books and being generous enough with space to encourage reading while not feeling like you’re in the way.
Details are tight and well done, with the white walls, floors, and ceiling letting the warm wood of the shelves and the colourful spines of the books define the space. And in a delightful little touch of whimsy, the sign for the shop is hung outside and perfectly framed by the round window in the elevator lobby. (The architects are now also working to revitalize the roof as a communal area)
From house to shop, this is a great little bit of adaptive reuse. It also shows what difference design can bring inside the rigid confines of a concrete box. Very nicely done.