More than just a bookstore, the Yan Ji You flagship in Chengdu, China, sprawls over an area of 4,000-sq-m and comprises nine functions under one roof, including a café, restaurant, presentation space, beauty salon, kids shop and crafts store.
‘Yan Ji You is totally different from the average bookshop,’ said Zero Wong of Kyle Chan & Associates, the design team responsible for the project. ‘But we used books as a glue to bind the various functions together.’
Titles are either integrated as products on offer or, as seen in the café, framed as a view. The library-like effect makes the flagship’s space feel both public and commercial – precisely the atmosphere that Kyle Chan & Associates wanted. The whole extravaganza, which builds upon the lavish ‘book cities’ recently unveiled by the likes of X+Living, pays tribute to the status of books in contemporary China.
The past decade or two have been something of a golden age for print in the country. In 2003 China had 20 publishers specializing in children’s books; now there are over 580. Today China boasts the world’s largest publishing industry by volume, with sales in 2015 increasing almost 13 per cent over the previous year. And since the average Chinese person reads fewer than five books a year (the French or Japanese reader clocks over eight), it’s fair to say that there’s still room for growth.
According to Wong, in fast-paced modern China the book offers a relaxing escape. ‘Today’s urban lifestyle is just too busy to look anywhere else but forward,’ he affirmed. ‘The concrete jungle has blocked the view, but there is a patch of sky that belongs to every enlightened reader.’ His team envisaged Yan Ji You as ‘the ultimate wisdom factory’, a place that invites harried city dwellers ‘to feel and touch the pages of books and rediscover what makes them who they are.’