Books Above The Clouds , Duoyun Books -Shanghai, China


Shanghai-based Wutopia Lab, founded in 2013 by architect YU Ting and MIN Erni, has created a 2,259 square-metre (24,316 sq. ft) flagship store for Duoyun Books in Shanghai.

This is not the first time Wutopia has joined the many Chinese design firms recently assigned to design yet another immense and fantastical bookstore. But even among the unthinkably huge Chinese bookstores, this one stands out.


The store is located literally above the clouds, on the 52nd floor of Shanghai’s tallest building, Shanghai Tower. At 239 metres (784 ft) it is also China’s highest bookstore. The concept is a complete cultural complex that in addition to the bookstore includes a lecture room, exhibition space, a café, a 52-metre (170-ft) bar, a restaurant and a large rooftop garden. The store inventory consists of 60,000 books and 2,000 other reading-related products.


Commissioned by Shanghai Century Publishing (Group) Co ., Wutopia Lab’s chief architect .YU Ting, project architect Shengrui PU with designers  Dali PAN and, Wutian SUN conjured a minimalist, open concept store that takes full advantage of the vast windows and the changing light.


The daylight experience in the store and garden is airy and light and the eye is drawn to the view outside. The night-time setting is completely different when the darkness creates a crozier interior focus and the city lights shimmer in the distance.


The designers used mountains as inspiration for the wide arched entryways and the high-stacked shelves in the main bookstore. Each of the smaller special areas, from the black reading room to the green London Book Review Bookstore, has its own colour palette that creates a distinctive atmosphere.   


From a typical Western retail perspective, the scale of the store as a retail business is unthinkable. It is also massive as a retail construction, fit-out and set-up project, and it was completed in record time.

Following more than 300 drawings, 100 workers spent 60 days completing the store. It then took 150 people 15 days to transport 260 tons of shelves to the 52nd floor, and another 10 days to install it. After that, 35 bookstore employees put the 60,000 books and 2,000 products on the shelves in only four days, and completed the rest of the set-up in six days.


According to the designers, the bookstore is a cultural landmark of Shanghai and an important public cultural place in the vertical city of Shanghai. It has already turned out to be also a visitor attraction, not just the actual bookstore environment but also the phenomenal panoramic views over the city. Tuija Seipell.


Photography: CreatAR Images