Kunshan Bookstore Prototype

  • Location

    Kunshan, China

  • Client

    Phoenix Media

  • Team

    Rutherford Harvey Architecture / 2Define

  • Size

    94,650m² (1,018,804ft²)
    17 storeys, 82.50m tall

Context and History – Kunqu Opera – Performance

The city of Kunshan carries many accolades from the birth place of Kunqu opera, to the “National Forest Garden City”, “National Ecological Model” and with an immigrant population larger than the number of its permanent residents, Kunshan was the winner of the UN-HABITAT Scroll of Honour Award in 2010.

The design for the new prototype for the Kunshan Bookshops looks to Kunshan as its cultural heart, a place of art and culture, respectful of the natural environment and embracing of multiple languages.  Just as Kunqu Opera is a synthesis of various art forms from drama to ballet, acrobatics to music all brought together upon the stage, so too is the performance of the building as a flexible collection of spaces gathered around a central media atrium or stage.

 The theatre or outer façade of the building is clad with a costume of vibrant changing text in various languages, celebrating the global outlook of the city and engagement with a multiplicity of media types.Greened sunken gardens engage the building – as amphitheatre  - reinforcing Kunshan as a green city whilst creating a new space for the audience to gather, observe and be inspired.

The building is conceived as a performance, celebrating the act of reading, information gathering and documentation – a “Media Stage, or “DATA Atrium”.  This is a place that actively engages with its audience – beneath the proscenium arch of the north façade is the media atrium – the heart and identity of the building.  The building itself is an active visual performance of a matrix of Chinese characters inspired by the poetry of the ancients and overlaid with ever morphing and changing text of the current times – exploring themes, languages and narratives.

As the printed page reaches a transition and looks to find a place in modern society the building acknowledges the history of the character based scrolls of the ancient past, houses the printed text of the recent past and present whilst celebrating the advancements in electronic, interactive knowledge systems. The future may bring many more kinds of media for us to explore but what remains constant is language and image used to express ideas, tell stories and document history.  The LED wall creates a new art form linking the written word to performance that becomes more intense with the coming of evening creating a day and night place for people to come and explore, meet and be entertained.

The large framed openings that punctuate the façade of characters mimic the idea of proscenium – providing a figural view portal to the ever changing interior of the shops and activity surrounding the media atrium.

Spatial Performance

The building is comprised of three spatial typologies.

Media atrium-a gathering space for information and interaction – vibrant and changing in its character in the celebration of seasons, events and technology.

This is an interactive space designed to be flexible to stage exhibitions, events, art and an ever changing collection of media.  This central stage is surrounded by the familiar comfort of the conventional bookstores and other human scale spaces for shoppers to wander and search for unique and interesting books, music and film. The media atrium is circumscribed by balconies punctuated with reading spaces and a centre of stacked cafes for shoppers, office workers and visitors to rest, read and observe the activity and grandeur of the central stage.

Stores and offices-flexible and functional spaces surrounding the media atrium.

With a constant floor to floor height the building offers flexible modular space, able to be utilised as retail or office space as the building matures to its role and needs change over time.   This strategy maximises the occupancy levels of the building, which in turn generates a maximised revenue stream and ensures the development of the building. With a designated drop-off and entry to the office building along the west façade the building provides the flexibility to lease the office floors as an entirely separate entity and/or connected to the central media atrium.  The office lobby and floors above are international class A open plan spaces with the ability to be laid out to a variety of configurations supporting the diverse needs of tenants. The retail/office outer façade is comprised as a series of horizontal stone slats, reminiscent of the pages of a book, stacked bamboo scrolls or the 0-1 modem of electronic communication.

Sunken gardens-public gathering amphitheatres, creating a new type of public space within the city.

The sunken gardens are emblematic of the historical canal cuts running through the ancient part of the city but are conceived as amphitheatre spaces – spaces for gathering for media events, staging performances or simply reading in the sun amid a dot dash language of trees and greenery.  The gardens are configured to create a new place to be - a new public space, mimicking the traditional public spaces laid out in front of the opera house, but inspired by a new zeal for knowledge, interaction and global connection.