An Abandoned Riverside Warehouse Becomes a Book Bar

Lacime Architects’ Liwa Riverside Book Bar on a university campus in Shanghai is a tranquil space for reading and relaxing


The picturesque and quaint Liwa river runs right through the central campus of East China Normal University in Shanghai. Here, Lacime Architects transformed an abandoned riverside warehouse dating back to the Republic of China era into a tranquil study space for students, professors and the general public alike. ‘We think campus life is always evolving and the demands on teachers and students change from time to time. Only a functional space that preserves local features and keeps abreast of the times can attract people and increase their sense of belonging to the place,’ explains Kris Lu, Lacime Architects’ branding resources manager.

Lacime Architects renovated the abandoned warehouse in a previously underutilised area of the campus to become a book bar with serene and secluded spaces for reading, drinking tea, socialising and relaxing. The existing architectural structure was maintained, and a glass extension was added in front of the upper level, while on the ground level an open space was created for a canteen. The design team transformed the features of the existing slope roof and added a partial mezzanine below it. The original building was a traditional masonry-timber structure, so red bricks and corroded steel plate were chosen to form the main facade, which blends into the environment; the varying materials also help delineate separate spaces

During the process of transforming the site, the design team sought to create a harmonious relationship between architecture and the natural landscape. Glass bricks and windows were used to connect the site with the surrounding nature, and paving appears both outside and within the structure. A partially sunken plaza was built between the study and the existing Chonger pavilion, offering more spaces for teachers and students to meet.

The Chonger pavilion was renovated based on its original design. Corroded steel plate was used to remake the handrail and stairs and the glass door and windows were removed to create more space. The pavilion is also known as the ‘love pavilion’, as one sideboard was covered in the phrase ‘I love you’ written in various languages, and the river was seen to represent a romantic sentiment. During the renovation this sideboard was refurbished, with the hope that the popular spot will continue to be considered a romantic site.

Text / Babette Radclyffe-Thomas
Images / Zhang Qianxi