Tianya Books by Wutopia Lab

Tianya Books

Once regarded as the end of land in China, Tianya Haijiao is now not only a famous scenic spot, but also the most famous wedding photography and confession spot in South China. Tianya Books 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 conceptions to reality into positive and even romantic paradises on earth.

Design starts with emotions, and bookstore is an attitude
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 were 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.

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. In the daytime, the bookstore will disappear because of the glass reflecting the sea and coconut grove, showing modest. 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 the undulating waves was broken into dappled reflections, flickering and stirring up various feelings and memories and letting me slightly lost in thought.

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 restrained in the glass, while nature stay 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.

Designed despite the difficulties, the bookstore is an action
Tianya Books is the southernmost bookstore in China in terms of geographical latitude. This south sometimes means hard for the whole design team. The beginning of the journey requires cover. The owner and I coincidentally did not choose a site that left the bookstore alone on the beach, but in the woods closest to the beach. My original design was a purely transparent glass box, because abstract geometry as a creation of human ideas can be contrasted with the richness and diversity of nature.

But a huge banyan tree on site created a little difficulty first. I had to cut a triangle on the short side of the original rectangular bookstore to preserve the banyan tree, while the 27-meter length of the sea-facing façade was also preserved.The function of the bookstore is cafe, lecture 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. 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 bookstore center is a controlled triangle. On the first floor is the cafe and private reading areas on either side, and on the second floor is the central point of the entire bookstore, an overhanging lecture hall and children’s reading areas on either side.

I wanted the view from this dominant space to be unobstructed whether on the second or first floor. At the same time, in order to ensure the permeability of the glass box, I asked the structural consultant not to set up structural columns as usual, or set up columns behind the curtain wall. The entire curtain wall is hung on the roof structural system, while the canopy structure was attached to the curtain wall keel. Finally, it seems that the roof of the bookstore is actually a very gentle four-slope roof. The facility engineer used this sloped roof ceiling space to conceal the fire protection, air conditioning, and fresh air units and ducts.

The drain-pipes were also concealed in conjunction with the bookshelves. This ensures that the second-floor space in the bookstore and the space above the building are visually separated, forming a separate house within house structure. I was once dissatisfied with the size of the curtain wall keel, but the project architect told me that the curtain wall needs to resist typhoons of 17 magnitude, and as the straight stile of the facade is eliminated, the internal keel size should be slightly increased. Knowing the power of typhoon, Shanghai people could only compromise.

The difficulty of the construction of the site is that the bookstore is standing on the beach, the foundation excavation found that the bearing capacity is far lower than expected. When the speaker stands on the stage of the second-floor lecture hall facing the sea, it will feel like you are standing in the air, because you could not think you are standing at the end of a 6.2-meter overhanging picket. The new fire regulations also created a bit of difficulty. In order to reduce the area of smoke exhaust windows, we painfully lowered the interior headroom to 6 meters. The 573 square meters of glass curtain wall thus required only 12 square meters of smoke extraction windows.

The design expresses various metaphors, so the bookstore becomes a kind of declaration
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.

The central of the entire bookstore is the lecture hall stage. It is the most prominent and sharpest corner that as if touches the façade but never reaches it. 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. Source by Wutopia Lab.

  • Location: Tianya Haijiao, Sanya, China
  • Architect: Wutopia Lab
  • Chief Architect: Yu Ting
  • Project Architect: Sun Liran
  • Design Team: Kuang Zhou, Pan Dali, Chen Ruoyue (Intern), Zhang Naiyue (Intern), Xiong Jiaxing (Intern)
  • Document Development: Shanghai Zhumeng Architectural Design Co.
  • Development Team: Wang Liyang, Jiang Qiqing, Ge Yong, Lu Tao, Li Xiangyun, Xu Fangting
  • Structural Consultant: Miao Binhai
  • Lighting Consultant: Zhang Chloe
  • Construction Team: Hainan Jianpinzhujing Engineering Co.
  • Project Manager: Wei Wei
  • Client: Sanya Tianya Haijiao Tourism Development Co.
  • Area: 478 sqm
  • Built year: May 2021
  • Photographs: CreatAR Images, Courtesy of Wutopia Lab

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