Housed in a small two-story building off Beijing’s well-known Liulichang Street is Rongbaozhai Coffee Bookstore. Built by the government in the 1980s, the building was constructed in a pseudo-classical style. The original space was a bookstore that specialized in selling Chinese paintings and antiquarian prints. The redesign maintains the building’s previous identity as a bookstore, but employs a sleek modern aesthetic that eliminates the rigid and stuffy atmosphere many people associate with traditional bookstores.
Building off the original structural grid, the ring-like interior has an island-style space in the middle of the room. On the first floor, the central island is a cashier’s desk and a barista’s workstation with iron shelving wrapping around the exterior. On the second floor, the centerpiece of the room is a meeting space constructed with switchable glass that has the ability to change in transparency, allowing for privacy when necessary.
The 300 square meter space is also strategically populated with plants, which are used to imbue a sense of vitality into the space. Housed in boxes integrated into the shelves, ferns are the main types of plants used throughout the store. Herbs like mint and apple pelargoniums can be found on the coffee tables and in front of windows, lending their refreshing fragrance to the space.
The designer behind the store’s transformation is Wen Qiang Han, founder of ARCHSTUDIO, who took into consideration of the fact that traditional bookstores are no longer able to attract readers. By implementing a café into the minimalist-style redesign, he hoped to attract a different crowd and bring in more foot traffic. With the redesign, Qiang Han envisioned a place where people could stop by and comfortably relax with a book and a fragrant cup of coffee for an afternoon, a sanctuary away from the fast-paced frenzy of our digitized society.