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A bookstore in a former orthodox church in Shanghai

“The truth is like poetry. And most people fucking hate poetry.” – a quote from the movie ‘The Big Short’

We have already presented buildings that have once operated as a church but received a new function, and we’ll do exactly the same with the new project of Wutopia Lab studio, owing to which a church in Shanghai built before World War II was transformed into a bookstore. 

The client was Sinan Books, Shanghai’s largest network specializing in poetry books, which sells books in 1000 different languages in the newly completed store. In the course of the interior design project going under the name “Church in Church”, the building of the church was fully restored, cafés were established in its east and west parts, and a special perforated steel structure of 45 tons was built in front of the inside walls of the building.

As the building has been declared a monument, the relevant authorities did not authorize any modifications in the original structure. The new structure established by the steel bookcases served the creation of the independent spirit of the space, practically creating a new dome system under the original, thus representing modernity and paying homage to the sacredness of the building. Leaving the back of the shelves open promotes the free flow of light in the space.

The construction works of former orthodox St. Nicholas church located at Gaolan Road #16 commenced in 1932, however, its operation was cut short: it was closed after only 20 years. China’s Communist authorities that were on friendly terms with the Soviet Union didn’t allow the organization of religious rituals in the building, and thus it functioned as an office, a factory, a warehouse and a diner, too, over the course of time. The eerie building abandoned for a long time still had the original religious ornamentation which were then combined with the features added during the renovation.

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