New London bookstore celebrates paper books in tech-free, universal library

SelgasCano
© SelgasCano

In this digital age of e-book readers, smartphones and tablets, it may seem that paper books will soon go the way of the dinosaur as outdated relics, rather than relevant icons of our times. Yet, despite e-readers gaining ground, many still prefer the soothing presence of a real book, rather than the dim glow of an electronic device. And yes, while books may necessitate the cutting of trees, some point out rightly that e-readers have their own massive initial environmental footprint as well, hundreds of times larger than that of a typical household library.

So understandably, some companies and designers are now shoring up the vanguard of the paper book. Spanish architects José Selgas and Lucía Cano of SelgasCano, creators of last year's Serpentine Pavilion, designed this wonderful interior for a new bookstore in East London, reminiscent of a delightful warren of books, where readers can come in and get lost in a good tome -- without electronic interventions, thanks to a strict ban on cellphones.

SelgasCano© SelgasCano

The designers were inspired by the Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges' account of the fictional Library of Babel, a enormous universal library of hexagonal rooms, filled with books that are unintelligible but which contain the infinite permutations possible from a certain character set. The architects brought this idea of an infinite space of bookish fullness into reality by utilizing handmade, irregular shelving, in addition to strategically placed mirrors that expand the space.

SelgasCano© SelgasCano
SelgasCano© SelgasCano

Though the inventory will be organized and managed by computers, the space is ostensibly a no-technology space that honours the printed word. Second Home co-founder and tech entrepreneur Rohan Silva, who commissioned the project along with Sam Aldenton, says on Dezeen:

We believe in the value of books and literature. Across industries we are seeing a return to physical material things and a fresh appreciation of craftsmanship. These things are not being killed by the digital; they are being given new life. One of the joys of physical book buying is having an experience unimpaired by algorithmic recommendation – encountering works you might never otherwise see. When curated well, bookshops are the best place to encounter new ideas.

SelgasCano© SelgasCano
SelgasCano© SelgasCano

One way that the store will eschew technological algorithms while still allowing for new discoveries is to organize books by themes rather than conventional topics. Says Sam Aldenlton:

Libreria's design emphasises both craftsmanship and the delight of discovery. The long flowing lines of the shelves seem to mirror one another, and are in turn reflected in the mirrors of the interior. They allow the categories to run horizontally and be layered – so a book of poetry might be displayed right above one on evolutionary psychology, expanding your chance encounters while browsing.

SelgasCano© SelgasCano
SelgasCano© SelgasCano

The design feels authentic and welcoming, an obvious delight for those of us who would love to get lost and spend a few hours freely browsing. If you're in London, visit Libreria at 65 Hanbury Street, or see more over at Dezeen and SelgasCano.

Tags: Architecture | Books | London

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