Alt-life, Ningbo

Designed by: Kokaistudios
For client: Ningbo Zhuxi Co., Ltd. Floor area: 2400.00 M² Year of completion: 2017
Submitted for: Multi-Brand Store of the Year

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© Dirk Weiblen

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About the Project

This 2400 m2 bookstore in the Eastern Chinese port city of Ningbo celebrates spatial fluidity and variety, organic geometries and the notion of circulation as a journey, the ultimate 'people mover', the drive capable, through curiosity, to spark and sustain life in public spaces as well as in cultural commercial venues.
The space was designed with the intention of being a destination for people to linger and spend time in, where the core function of book appreciation was to be complemented by a wide variety of activities, enabling customers to sit and read, to study, to take part in workshops or live events. A thorough lifestyle experience, in other words, that is aspirational and transcends the simple selling of products.
A double height small auditorium and event space and a section dedicated to children were part of the program together with a teahouse, a juice bar, a coffee shop, and a bakery. With multiple third party tenants operating within the space our design had to guarantee flexibility of use and capacity to adapt to multiple programs and brand identities while still being coherent and consistent design wise with the overall concept.
The journey starts at the ground floor entrance, through a renovated glass pavilion that leads to a hanging grand staircase, designed like a spiraling bookshelf that connects the entrance to the mezzanine and to the main floor below.

What’s unique about it

Ningbo has been a literary center for millennia and is home to Asia’s oldest library; the Tian Yi Ge. Kokaistudios was inspired to build upon that culture of the appreciation of books by creating a hybrid cultural & commercial space where guests would be encouraged to linger and indulge in their love for books; to study, to take part in workshops or live events; to have aspirational experiences transcending the simple selling of products.
Kokaistudios on-going research on ‘paper’ including investigations on the physical and mechanical qualities of paper (variations of texture, color, thickness, transparency, flexibility, etc.) inspired the bookstore layout, its fluid and organic geometries, and the choice of materials.
Flexibility was also another key requirement in the design process as several areas within the 2400 m2 space were to be operated independently by third party tenants thus our design had to guarantee flexibility of use and capacity to adapt to multiple programs and brand identities while remaining coherent design wise with the overall concept.
An additional source of inspiration for the project was Michelangelo Pistoletto's 1960’s labyrinthine playgrounds which drove the design of a modular system of see-through standing shelves and counters realized in corrugated cardboard.
Since opening the space has becoming a major cultural hub for the city attracting a diverse cross-section of the public united in their love for literary culture.

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"Frame wall" offers flexibility for decorations

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Signature spiral stairs

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Children's section

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Auditorium and event space

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