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mattDESIGN: Xinhua bookstores have long played an important role as a spiritual and cultural carrier of the city, but in recent years the rise of "online bookstores" has had a huge impact on the traditional bookstore industry. How do you see the aesthetic, role and function of Xinhua bookstores in people's lives in this new era?
Mr. Liu Hong: A few years ago, there were a number of excellent online bookstores, such as Yanjiya and Zhongshuge, and further back in time there was Chengpin Bookstore. At the time, it became a benchmark in the industry because it combined bookstores with people's lifestyles and lifestyle products, making it a place with a literary and artistic atmosphere. At first domestic bookshops copied it and soon surpassed it, moving towards art spaces, exhibition halls, museums and various types, making the bookshop itself less and less of an attribute, doing more formality and styling, with books becoming the decoration of the space. This has led to many people going to bookshops just to punch a clock and a gradual indifference to the feeling of books, which I think has gone astray. Xinhua bookstores have always been more traditional bookstores, always sticking to the essence of the book, which selects and sells books and guides the values of society, taking on the social responsibility of raising awareness and being an important cultural symbol for the city.
mattDESIGN: As soon as the CCB Xinhua Bookstore was built, it became a popular online bookstore for the public. What kind of brand tone and vision do you expect the bookstore to reflect?
Mr. Liu Hong: The Xinhua Bookstore is located inside the CCB, and although it is a storefront outside, it is in a nondescript ridge building with a garage entrance in front of it, which is a disadvantage from the point of view of attracting customers. So we have done something with the outdoor design of the bookshop, combining it with the façade of the CCB and using the words Xinhua Bookstore to create a rich design that lights up at night, signifying that 'books are the light that guides the way', so that people can find it from afar. To reflect the culture of the CCB, we have used the blue colour of the CCB to echo this, not in a straightforward way, but in a subtle way.
Mr. Liu Hong: For the interior part, the concept of the 'blind box of knowledge' was adopted because our cognition is a process of exploration and we wanted to give the reader a feeling of 'opening the blind box of knowledge' in the bookstore. Rather, we wanted the reader to have a sense of hide-and-seek. The blind box has several openings and is like a maze of knowledge, which makes it interesting to explore. The windows at the front of the bookshop are designed to reflect the role of the display, with lattice-shaped shelves to showcase the culture of the bookshop, including creative products and stationery items, thus increasing the bookshop's stock and enhancing the perception of the CCB Xinhua Bookshop to the outside world. There is a long and narrow space at the end of the bookshop, and the design is to create a 'secret garden' at the end, where you can quietly read a book or sit and drink a coffee while looking out at the square, where there are some trees and the sun shines down to give a sense of tranquillity.
mattDESIGN: Nowadays, the new online bookstores are emphasising too much on their online attributes, evolving more like a leisure place than a bookstore, while Xinhua bookstores are taking on the role of a "book city", so how do you combine new design elements with tradition in the design, without making them too strong?
Mr Liu Hong: We were very cautious in this part of the design. We didn't use fake books and stickers to express the feeling of books, as some online bookstores do. Once we get the standardisation of the shelves right, we use a more standardised thing to combine the richness of the space. Whereas online bookstores tend to go for the shape of a space first and then take the book and package it, Xinhua Bookstore is aimed at the book itself first and then makes the space look reasonable.
mattDESIGN: In design, lighting and colour often play a silent role, how did you consider this in the case of the Xinhua Bookstore?
Mr. Liu Hong: In terms of lighting design, we mainly used mains-free lighting to create the atmosphere of the bookstore, and used overhead LED line lights to meet the illumination requirements. The bright white light from the line lights and the warm light from the mains-free lights were combined to create a natural and neutral effect in the bookstore. In terms of the interior colour scheme, we have used mainly wooden colours to give the bookshop a simple appearance, considering the small size of the building and the uniformity of the materials.
mattDESIGN: The main logo of CCB Xinhua Bookstore this time has a change to the original colour used for the Xinhua Bookstore logo, how did you consider it?
Mr. Liu Hong: The logo of Xinhua Bookstore is in warm yellow letters on a red background, and using the original logo colour directly would be very damaging to the façade and to the image of Xinhua Bookstore itself. We have taken reference from the international practice of integrating the logo into the overall environment of the building, such as the Starbucks shop design on Suzhou's Guanqian Street and the McDonald's shop design in Paris; that is, to promote one's brand without damaging the overall environment, rather than simply adding one's brand to the environment. A good brand should be adapted to the local context, so that ultimately the Xinhua Bookstore is in harmony with its surroundings and has its own personality to reveal.
mattDESIGN: What was the biggest challenge for the design team during the project design process?
Mr. Liu Hong: The actual duration of this project was very tight and posed a great challenge to us. We made a lot of options and eventually chose to utilise prefabricated furniture, which was installed directly on site to meet the client's needs. For the design of the top, we used modelling lamps and shelves to close the line of the top elevation, which is aesthetically pleasing and reflects the feeling of the ceiling, and the cost is also more economical, and the fire part does not need to be modified significantly, which solves this challenge.
mattDESIGN: Compared to traditional Xinhua bookstores, this new shop has many new and unique features, and I believe it will also encounter many disagreements, how do you communicate effectively with your customers?
Mr. Liu Hong: Xinhua Bookstore has many bookstores in the area and they have a wealth of experience, including some of the usual practices, and CCB also has their input, we listen to their needs and continuously hone our communication with each other. Because there is a great deal of trust between us, our communication always leads both sides towards agreement. For example, in the standardised bookshelves, we have rhythmic built-in seating that readers can use for reading, coffee and conversation, and the built-in will add a little more privacy than the traditional bookstore seating. Secondly, for the soft furnishing part, we carefully selected a decorative painting for each position ...... These practices will make the CCB shop more casual than a traditional Xinhua bookstore, the client supported our design ideas and the final result is very satisfactory to the client.
mattDESIGN: After completing the CCB Xinhua Bookstore project, we were subsequently awarded the tender for the Jiangbei shop of Xinhua Group, how do you think the two bookstores are different and how are they similar?
Mr. Liu Hong: Each project of Xinhua Bookstore has certain special characteristics. The CCB shop is a sophisticated bookstore, while the Jiangbei shop is much larger, with an area of about 600-700 square feet, and there will be differences in the overall tone control. I wanted to reflect a different theme in the design of each of the Xinhua Bookstore shops. In the CCB shop it's a 'blind box of time', or a 'box of time', and in the Jiangbei shop it's a 'promenade of time', where we have some through spaces, as if the axis of time connects the past, present and future. It also represents the continuous evolution of the book in the course of the city's development. The implicit themes and connotations will be incorporated according to the design conditions of the site.
Design of Xinhua Bookstore Jiangbei Store
mattDESIGN: For new designers, it can be overwhelming to take on a project like this, do you have any advice?
Mr. Liu Hong: The level of design output has a lot to do with one's CV and experience. First of all, one has to collect and collate all kinds of information, taking bookstores as an example, such as how many types of bookstores are available in the market, how others are doing it, what the client's needs are for the project, co-ordinate with each other, and then combine it with one's own ability.
* Graduated from Shenzhen University with a Bachelor's degree in Architecture in 1997, and graduated from Tianjin University with a Master's degree, and was a student of EMBA 30 of Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business.
*He left Huasen in 2001 and was invited to join the predecessor of the current Aecom China - Shenzhen Merchants Design Company, as the manager of the solution department.
* Founded Shanghai Porto in 2003 with Yongyi He and Jing Wu as Executive Director and Chief Architect.
* In 2019, he left Shanghai Porto and founded Shanghai JADEYU, where he was also the chief architect of mattDESIGN.
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