Books tend to be rectilinear. But that doesn’t mean their repositories have to be. For this library in Kumamoto, Japan, design director Kazunobu Nakamura conceived a system of curved shelves to evoke the Kikuchi River, which runs through the city, located on the island of Kyushu. The nearly 330 linear feet of bookcases—composed of steel columns supporting shelves of pale Japanese ash finished with clear urethane—wind through the 18,300-square-foot space, dividing it into discrete nooks.
In a cozy children’s area, for instance, the shelves are low. In the main reading area, they rise and literally encircle visitors with reading volumes. Angular, white-framed apertures—intended to emulate the “way waterfalls and rocks alter how a river flows,” Nakamura notes—offer patrons passage from one area to another as well as seating on one of their built-in benches, surfaced in a melamine that resembles marble.
The project has proven popular with locals—and not only in the way Nakamura intended. Yes, the library is a favorite reading and gathering place. But it’s also become a well-liked venue for... weddings. For booklovers, what better place to begin the first chapter of one’s married life?