Tianya Books - This Bookstore at the End of the Earth is a Place to Read, Dream and Contemplate

Designed and conceived by Wutopia Lab, Tianya Books takes pride of place in Sanya Tianya Haijiao Scenic Area

Once regarded as the end of land in China, Tianya Haijiao is now not only a famous scenic spot, but also the most famed wedding photography and confession spot in South China. Therefore, there is no reason why Tianya Books, located in this scenic spot, should become a bookstore where people feel homesick and lonely. Instead, the bookstore should be an ode to those naturally optimistic Chinese people who, in good times and bad, can transform remote and culturally unfamiliar places such as the Cape and the End of the World from concepts to reality into positive and even romantic paradises on earth.

Design starts with emotions, and the design of this bookstore is an attitude. Expresses the chief architect of Wutopia Lab, Yu Ting, “The day I stood in front of the sea in Sanya, I suddenly realized that in the face of the unpredictable vast sea, human actions are self-indulgent and meaningless. However, compared with the exaggerated movements, many human ideals and thoughts and feelings are worthy of the sea. At that moment of consciousness, my feeling was like the ocean, but the surface seemed calm, and I tried to refrain from showing superficial expressions and movements in front of nature. This prompted me to use design to capture that moment; I chose a thin and crisp glass as the complex attitude of the bookstore facing the sea. The glass is the physical interface and climatic boundary of the bookstore. I wanted to create a clean, transparent and pure bookstore in a beautiful landscape.”

Chief architect of Wutopia Lab, Yu Ting

In the daytime, the bookstore will disappear because of the glass reflecting the sea and coconut grove, showing modesty. However, once inside the bookstore, one will be able to look at the unobstructed sea calmly with a seemingly fragile security. At night, the sea that controlled everything during the day will disappear into the night, and only the moonlight on the surface of the sea with its undulating waves will be broken into dappled reflections, flickering and stirring up various feelings and memories and allowing one to be slightly lost in thought. However, when I walked out of the bookstore and looked back, the glass disappeared in the brilliant light of the bookstore, and the red bookshelves seemed like the morning glow illuminated the entire beach. 

The glass of the bookstore is an interface between man and nature. In contrast to the magnificent view from the outside, the interior space is abstracted into triangles of human emotions. These triangles are restrained in the glass, while nature stays outside. They strike a delicate balance on the fragile glass surface. You can sit on the bench, stand on the stage and look at the sea of stars through the transparent glass. This is the sea in front of our eyes, but also the sea we want to conquer in the future. The stars twinkle, the waves surge, and the boiling energy raises a silent tidal sound that casts itself deep into the wilderness of our consciousness. The bookstore has such an attitude, "Our journey is the sea of stars."

The function of the bookstore is a cafe, lecture hall and bookstore. The bookstore is divided into a general reading area and a children's reading area. These functions need to be arranged in layers. The architects placed the children's reading area and the lecture area on the second floor, which also compensates for the loss of area due to the preservation of the banyan tree. To ensure the continuity of the glass box around the perimeter, this partial second floor was to be completely disconnected from the façade to create a house within house type of space. The architects chose a triangular shape for the staircase and second floor plan, and echoed the triangular outdoor space on the west side formed to preserve the ficus tree. The triangular interior space and the square box create a dramatic conflict and tension in the interior in terms of experience, but this is where the architect creates difficulty for his own implementation.

The design expresses various metaphors, so the bookstore becomes a kind of declaration. The glass on the façade of the bookstore seems to be fragile before a storm, and then seems to be non-existent when the sky is clear, and this fragile and changing feeling expresses exactly the kind of mood I feel when facing the sea. The ubiquitous triangle in the interior has become the motif of the bookstore. The exhibition hall, staircase hall, retail tables, cafe bar, custom-made book tables and seats form right angles of different sizes vying to point towards the sea, they express the richness and sharpness of human thoughts and feelings, and finally stop in front of the glass, echoing the sea that stops outside in front of the glass.

There is a small raised platform on the diagonal of the lecture hall stage. While reading the book Underland, the design director wanted to create a response to the stage at the center of the bookstore's axis, like the throne in Game of Thrones. Placing a chair on the platform, one can sit inside and look at the floor underneath as if one is in the sea, so that the world can be imagined and break through the physical boundary. The center of the entire bookstore is the lecture hall stage - this is the most prominent and sharpest corner that touches the façade but never reaches it. One can stand on the stage, look out at the scenery and become part of that scenery and also the protagonist of life. Contrast this with the calm glass façade - the symmetrical gradient red bookshelves on both sides of the central triangle symbolize the blazing fire of ideals inside people. The staircase is hidden inside the fire: you pick up the steps, and the daylight falls on your head through the triangular skylight, silently watching your rising desire and ambition. What started out as a design ended up as a practical prophecy, namely the 400-square-meter glass box that is Tianya Books, designed in the midst of an epidemic and built in the midst of a tightly controlled epidemic, and we all know the significance of understanding the difficulty of it and the optimism of overcoming it. It is hidden in the woods by the beach, facing the sea modestly and calmly but powerfully. It is a small human cultural statement: do not walk meekly and tamely into that vast blue, where the day will end and the heart roars and burns.

Words: Emily Leung & Nikey Cheng
Photos: CreatAR Images
Published on July 20, 2022