China’s latest Zhongshuge bookstore, located in Shenzhen, offers “a feast for the senses” with its massive spiraling bookcase running through the middle of the floor space.

Patrons mingle and work in the spacious reading room in front of the Shenzhen Zhongshuge bookstore's central spiraling bookcase.

Continue reading below
Our Featured Videos

Designed by Shanghai-based X+ Living, the firm drew inspiration for the new bookstore from the city of Shenzhen itself. Within just 40 years, the special economic zone has transformed from a small fishing village to a globally influential metropolis of innovation and entrepreneurship. “These achievements and history are the result of the sweat and hard work of pioneers. The city has been forged by countless dreamers,” chief architect Li Xiang notes.

“When I received the design assignment for Zhongshuge in Shenzhen last year, I had led the designs for several completed Zhongshuge across China,” she adds. “In the process of researching the cultural background of this city, I realized that I could design a space which could become a symbol of Shenzhen itself as an inclusive and vibrant city of migrants, paying tribute to all those who have struggled to make history in this city.”

Massive sculptural spiral bookcase runs through the center of the X+Living-designed Shenzhen Zhongshuge bookstore.

“Thus, this retail space, which seems to have grown out of a giant art installation, was born. Straddling the earth and sky, it is examined as an otherworldly presence that creates a subtle experience of unease mixed with familiarity, making the space a proposition posing silent questions to the viewers.”

Xiang and her team also took Maxim Gorky’s quote “books are the ladder of human progress” as the metaphorical basis for the store’s horizontal spiraling staircase. The enormous coil can easily be seen from outside the store thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows, beckoning passers-by to step in and explore the world of knowledge flowing through the expanse.

View from inside the massive sculptural spiral bookcase in the new Shenzhen Zhongshuge bookstore.

The staircase’s handrails each take the form of a clock hand seeming to rotate around an invisible clock in the center. They “allude to the fact that this is a ladder of history that has been built up over countless hours, conveying the sense that history is being pushed through time at a rapid pace,” according to the firm.

A table-height black bookshelf also runs through the vortex of the corkscrew, allowing patrons to feel like they are entering the flow of time and insight.

Warm, lit-up forum room in the Shenzhen Zhongshuge bookstore uses stepped bookshelves to form a

View up at the Shenzhen Zhongshuge Forum Room's mirrored ceiling reveals a fantastic kaleidoscopic effect.

Continuing the ladder of wisdom imagery, X+ Living combined a host of stepped bookshelves to make a towering “sacred temple of knowledge” in the store’s forum room. A dark, mirrored ceiling and an assortment of warm and cool lighting make the space feel like it expands forever.

Colorful storybook-like children's area in the X+Living-designed Shenzhen Zhongshuge bookstore.

The store also includes a children’s area with a much more whimsical aesthetic. Decked out in lilac, peach, and salmon, the bookcases in here are designed in the shapes of childhood favorites, including a carousel, a castle, and a race car. Best of all, the room incorporates playground items like carousel horses and a train for the ultimate interactive reading experience.

Street view of the Shenzhen Zhongshuge bookstore puts the interior spiral bookcase on full display.

Shenzhen Zhongshuge is the ninth retail branch that Li Xiang and X+ Living have designed, each one seemingly outdoing the last in terms of creativity and visual enchantment. Their imaginative work can be followed on both Xiang’s Instagram page and the company website.