Lonely Planet Writer

This colourful new 'Metal Rainbow' bookshop in China looks like it’s from a fairytale

Under the watchful eye of Chief Architect Yu Ting, Wutopia Lab in China has created something truly magical. Dubbed the ‘Metal Rainbow’, Zhongshu Bookstore in Sūzhōu is absolutely bursting with colour and symbolism.

The Zhongshu Booksore's green zone
Green zone at the Metal Rainbow bookstore. Image by: Wutopia Lab

“The new bookstore is divided into four main – and several subdivided – zones”, Wutopia tell us. “Aiming to create a colourful new world using symbolism, we gave a unique character to each zone: the Sanctuary of Crystal for new arrivals; the Cave of Fireflies for recommendations; the Xanadu of Rainbows for a reading room; and the Castle of Innocence for children’s books.”

Pinsh section at the Rainbow Bookstore
Pink zone at the Metal Rainbow Bookstore. Image by: Wutopia Lab

Each section leads into the next, perfectly complementing the natural customer journey. “As an entrance, the Sanctuary of Crystal is a space full of books and nothing else”, they explain. “Using glass bricks, mirrors and acrylic, it’s a shining white space, luring customers into the heart of the store.”

“After the whiteness, the Cave of Fireflies is a darker tunnel connecting the main hall and the entrance. Customers will pick books here and follow the guide of optic fibers into the main reading area. After a relatively narrow space, the Xanadu of Rainbows is a large and open area. Thanks to its large windows, natural light can pour inside. Being the most prominent space, it provides a variety of experience. Taking advantage of different height shelves, steps and tables, we’ve created a hyper-architectured and abstracted landscape of cliffs, valleys, islands, rapids, and oases.”

Wutopia Lab's Red section at the Metal Rainbow
Red zone at the Metal Rainbow, Zhongshu Bookstore. Image by: Wutopia Lab

“There are also thin perforated aluminium sheets in gradient colours simulated as rainbows installed in the bookstore. These 1cm-thin panels divide zones, while at the same time bringing a mysterious atmosphere to the space.”

“At the very end of the Xanadu of Rainbows is the Castle of Innocence; the children’s area. With the help of translucent ETFE, it’s an inner world inside the bookstore. Many complex instalments were added, building a world where children can interact with each other and with the bookstore itself.”