A Sao Paulo bookstore has been awarded Best Retail Interior for 2014 for its 21st century design focus.

The Cultura Bookstore was among the winners of the Inside Awards during the World Festival of Interiors.

Designed by studio mk27, the design pushes the boundaries the traditional bookstore aesthetic to include spaces for reading, socialising, purchasing and events.

While the store itself is aesthetically pleasing, its inviting architecture, multi-purpose nature and the connection of its spaces truly sets the shop apart.

Customers are encouraged to sift through the neatly placed products but then stay a while by pulling up a armchair or resting with a book in hand on the campus-inspired steps.

While bookstores such as Borders (which has just been reinstated in Singapore) pioneered this “stay and read” strategy, the Cultura Bookstore takes it to another level with comfortable club chairs in a large, open, light-filled area.

Cultura’s design leans on the configuration of a “public square” or common area in an university with chairs, large tables and a series of bleacher-style stairs for lounging and reading.

Split over two floors, Cultura sought “fluidity and spacial continuity” utilising design elements including communal furniture, open spaces and the seamless connection of the bookstore areas.

“The architectural journey begins in a cozy space then arrives at a monumental area, living, where most of the products and visitors can interact with one another, where one can take a book and read a chapter even before purchasing it, where one can simply rest and watch the movement,” explains studio mk27.

The entrance features a 7.7-metre glass and aluminium frame that is entirely recessed, leaving the entrance passage open. The entry floor hosts audiovisual products while a set of escalators take customers to an intermediate floor which features toys and comic books in a very colourful space.

The top floor is the most impressive of all, however.

Bordered by bookshelves, it features a central open space with lounge chairs and 11 long communal tables. The tables house products but are also designed for working or interacting.

At the end of the rectangular room are a series of 21-metre long wooden bleachers which invite customer to sit and read. They can also be used for seating for in-store events or to lead customers to a mezzanine level with further products.

The space is also clad in light wood from floor to ceiling and built-in LED strips line bookshelves.

“The other planes use white laminates and distinguish the side walls from the rest,” the project description reads. “Glass hand-rails minimise the visual interference of these elements in the space, disappearing in the entire layout. Lighting is achieved by lines of light and completed by outstanding light in the center of the upstairs room.”

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Glass and light work to minimise the visual interference of the space

While this type of open configuration is common in community libraries and urban campuses, retailers rarely set aside the space needed for such a design.

The RIO bookstore by Studio Arthur Casas has also earned praise for its community design.

The bookstore first drew attention for its product placement, with books sorted by colour.

The four-storey Saraiva bookstore is also clad in timber but features marble floors and a “public square.”

One floor features an auditorium and playfully designed children’s space which holds a striking design feature – a multi-coloured striped ramp which lines the walls, doubling as practical access to books as well as seating.

best book store

Mutli-coloured strip works as seating and access to books