A distinct and striking bookshop has been unveiled inside a historical church in Shanghai, allowing visitors to peruse the aisles of a modern store built into the shell of a unique building dating back to 1932.

Called Sinan Books Poetry Store, the shop was designed by Wutopia Lab, who describe the whole idea behind the project as creating a “church in a church”. It was built using 45 tonnes of steel in the historic site of St. Nicholas Church in Shanghai, and is the largest professional poetry bookstore in the city, and carries 1000 books in different languages. Taking inspiration from the texts themselves, the store has been designed in a dramatic and bold style.

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The project sought to create a "church inside a church" © Wutopia Lab / CreatAR Images

The former Orthodox church at Gaolan Road has not been used as a place of worship for a long time. In the past few decades, it was an office, factory, warehouse, canteen, residential building, and later became a club and restaurant, before finally falling into disrepair. When it came to planning how visitors would experience the store, the designers knew that they had to retain as much of the old building as possible. “No existing façade, structural system, basic floor plan and distinctive interior decoration of the building could be changed. So we built a metal bookstore apart from the old walls, leaving a gap between them. That’s what ‘church in church’ means. Since 1932, the church was refurbished several times,” A representative of Wutopia Lab told Lonely Planet.

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The building has housed many different things over the years © Wutopia Lab / CreatAR Images

According to the architects, visitors have been astounded by the space as they make their way through it. “After peeling off layers of paint, the textures of 1932 were finally revealed. With light strips on the wall, readers can figure out the original outline of the church and tell which parts are newly added-on.” A balcony was transformed into a golden pulpit in keeping with the history of the building. 

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A steel structure was built inside the original building © Wutopia Lab / CreatAR Images

The building also houses a café and restaurant. 

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