Meet The 2016 Winners: Chu Chih Kang Space Design

Posted on June 30, 2017 by Gemma Norris

For this week’s ‘Meet The Winners’ blog post we speak with Yu Shan Su of design practice Chu Chih Kang Space Design, winners in the WIN Awards 2016 Retail Interiors Greater Than 200 SQ.M category.

The concept behind your project Fangsuo Bookstore was so beautiful – can you tell us more about the story?

I always aspired to design a bookstore when I was young. Taikoo Lu Chengdu were building a new shopping area which surrounded the historic Daci Temple. The very well-known Buddhist, Xuanzang, practiced in the temple before he started his journey to India which inspired the classic Chinese novel “Journey to the West”. The location of Fangsuo Bookstore is in the basement just beside the temple. The story immediately fired my imagination; Xuanzang stored precious scriptures in a secret cellar under the Daci Temple. In ancient China scriptures symbolized knowledge and wisdom and this became the overarching theme for the project.

Fangsuo Bookstore in Chengdu

The judges were awe-inspired by the sheer scale of Fangsuo Bookstore, what challenges do you face when tackling a project of this size?

It was indeed a big challenge. For such a huge space in a basement a floor-in-floor structure was forbidden and many stairs were required for fire safety. There was the additional difficulty of how to make customers aware that there was a bookstore in the basement. Lastly, a great challenge was to make customers ‘visible’ in such an expansive space so the store did not feel empty.

The aim was to keep visitors in the store for as long as possible. Firstly, to achieve this we included 2 coffee shops; secondly, the staircases were given multiple functions for people to sit on and relax. Lastly, an iconic landmark was placed by the entrance encouraging visitors to take photo’s and share on social media.

I solved the problem for my client whilst still keeping the legendary story: a cave hiding precious knowledge. But I think the most decisive was the story, a story of our culture and of our history. There were no cliché elements to make it “Chinese”, but people could get the story and the atmosphere while entering the store. I think it is the most successful part of the design.

Fangsuo Bookstore in Chengdu

Your work ranges from Exhibition to Retail to Residential projects, is there a particular sector that you enjoy working on most and why?

Not at all! My friends all know that I am a curious person; I love a challenge and have no patience for immutable things. Therefore so long as the concept is interesting, no matter what type of space it is, I will do it.

After the success of Fangsuo Bookstore in Chengdu, to be honest, many people came to me for bookstore design. Some even requested “do something that looks like Fangsuo Bookstore in Chengdu.” Of course I rejected them. Regardless of the sector I want to be producing something different each time, otherwise it’s simply no fun!

Fangsuo Bookstore in Chengdu

What’s the next project you’re working on?

My next project is a public space on the first floor of the Tao Zhu Yin Yuan tower located in Taipei, Taiwan and designed by the architect Vincent Callebaut. I was invited by the GAA Foundation to exhibit the concept model for the project during Venice Biennale. It’s perhaps unusual to exhibit an architecture project at an art show, but to me, the space itself is a huge art piece. Rather than creating a modish design I’m approaching this project more as an art piece with the concept of the circle of life at it’s centre.

Chu Chih-Kang exhibiting at Venice Biennale

Our 2017 categories will soon be coming to a close. What would you say to anyone considering entering the WIN Awards?

Practically, it has been a fantastic way to publicize my own project. In particular I was really happy to hear the judges’ feedback. The concept of Fangsuo Bookstore in Chengdu is related to Chinese history and legend and I am thrilled that the jury panel understood and appreciated the concept from their point of view.

Don’t hesitate, enter the WIN Awards now!