Wutopia Lab has completed the new Toyou Bookstore for CIFI Group in Shanghai’s Huangpu District. Housed within a mixed-use structure known as the Roof, the store was conceived as a scholarly gateway to understanding Shanghai and a symbol of continuity of Chinese culture. The space draws its name from Big You Mountain and Little You Mountain, both sites where academics preserved books from being burned by emperor Qin Shi Huang.

Inside Toyou Bookstore, mountainous motifs abound, with an illuminated white mountain fixture comprising artificial stone made to represent Little You Mountain, while the store’s main hub is crafted akin to the interior of Big You Mountain.

The blanched interior is lined with perforated burgundy aluminum panels to gently establish a cave-like atmosphere that’s outfitted with corners to sit and read. “We use the organization of bookshelves, partitions, commodities, and book arrangements to create a very rich spatial experience in a small space, so that there are surprises everywhere and identical views at every step,” says Yu Ting, cofounder and chief architect of Wutopia Lab.

Notes of greenery further infuse nature into the retail space, also channeling the design traditions of Chinese gardens. A small, circular space clandestinely occupies the heart of the design, serving as a meditative retreat from the energy of Shanghai. “It is the bookstore owner’s private space, like a jug, in which there is heaven and earth, mountains, rocks, pines, books, wine, and himself—a cave in the midst of Shanghai’s glitz and glamour,” Ting adds.

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