The infinite bookshop: How Chinese architects created a reflective space using mirrors

Steve Hogarty
Follow Steve
The mind-boggling design is by Hong Kong firm XL-Muse

With Amazon, ebooks and high street supermarkets pushing bookshops to the brink of extinction, the few independent sellers remaining have sought to reinvent themselves as shrines to literacy, intimate meeting places for authors and their readers, and serene reading grounds amidst the urban noise.

One such spot is Zhongshuge-hangzhou, a newly- opened bookshop in Hong Kong’s bustling Star Avenue commercial district. Designed by architecture firm XL-Muse, the unique store uses clever shelving and carefully placed mirrors to create mind-bending optical illusions. Like something out of the mind of Lewis Carroll, shelves cascade into infinity, spaces are made huge and rooms appear to stretch out in absurd directions, disguising the store’s true proportions.

The design also includes a children’s room in which shelves dip and rise like fairground rollercoasters, a peaceful reading room for respite from the reflective madness, and a forest of mirrors that makes picking up the latest John Grisham novel a stupefying challenge. Each of these rooms extend from a main hall, with entrances taking on the appearance of arcane rectangular portals to other worlds.

Geometric seats, zig-zagging benches and sparse cushions atop shelves invite visitors to sit with a book, and lighting is mostly hidden – strip-lights tucked inside shelves – to prevent the store becoming a dazzling mess of JJ Abrams glare.

To see more of XL-Muse’s designs, visit

Related articles