Selexyz is an important Dutch commercial distribution centre for books. Merkx+Girod architects is a close interaction of interior architects and architects in projects which are often monumental public buildings (museums, concert halls, government buildings, department stores etc), aiming to develop new meanings in environments of quality.
This is the third bookstore designed and built by our office for Selexyz in a series which is projected in major towns of The Netherlands. Already finished in The Hague, Almere and Maastricht, we are now working on venues in Arnhem, Eindhoven and possibly Utrecht.
The bookstores are always to be projected in architecturally interesting buildings, often available through the loss of their original purpose like churches, hotels, industrial buildings etc. So our first imperative when starting the design is finding the right contrast and balance while being respectful to the building and to the client’s program.
The second interesting aspect is the possibility to develop a system of furniture (tables, bookcases etc.) that can be used in a wide and adapting way in all these very different environments. We have chosen for the use of unpainted standard industrial boards, available in many thicknesses, colors and finishes. This makes that quite different 3-dimensional solutions can be offered, while staying within the visual family that belongs to the chain of stores.
In the special case of the bookstore in Maastricht, we were confronted with the earliest Gothic church in the Netherlands, a pure and strong space with remnants of important frescos on the main vaults and one wall.
We were required to develop a store with more than twice the surface available in the church as such, so we had to look for extra floorspace. Eventually the design was based on the following considerations:
Instead of adding one floor over part of the nave and the aisles as the client first proposed, we decided to organize the extra needed space in two floors, positioned asymmetrically as a giant bookcase, in order to keep the main sight lines in the nave.
We chose steel as the material for the entire “bookcase”, being as light, simple and pure as the sandstone of the church, and as an autonomous contrast.
The construction never touches the church, folds itself alongside the row of columns, with a series of stairs inside and cantilevered floors outside to keep this piece of furniture flying, and transparent by using perforated steel sheets where possible.
All technical installations, storage, restrooms etc are out of sight in the extension of an existing basement under the choir. All the lighting is incorporated in the “bookcase” to free the space of unwanted elements.
In this way, the design is not only an efficient answer to the client’s program, but also and maybe most of all a vehicle for an experience in browsing and at the same time experiencing the breathtaking space of this marvelous church on all levels.