"They crave experiences that are human": Is this algorithm and phone-free London space the future of bookshops?

By Culture24 Reporter | 22 February 2016

A new bookshop in London aims to leave digital distractions behind and seize upon a perceived technological tipping point

A photo of three people from the Second Home company standing inside the brightly-lit Libreria bookshop in Hanbury Street, London
(Left to right) Jessica Fogarty, Paddy Butler and director Sally Davies are preparing to open Libreria© Iwan Baan
“A reimagining of the bookshop” is how Rohan Silva, the co-founder of London entrepreneurial complex Second Home, describes Libreria, a sleekly-designed space where phones are banned in a “sanctuary” from the “bombardment” of life.

A photo of the brightly-lit Libreria bookshop in Hanbury Street, London
© Iwan Baan
A bookshop, printing press and community space, this place, which opens on Thursday, draws on the time-honoured theme of The Library of Babel, with its design assigned to Spanish architectural practice Selgas Cano. The shelves will be broadly based around various suggested topics of conversation, including family, the sea and the sky, terror and refugees.

A photo of the brightly-lit Libreria bookshop in Hanbury Street, London
© Iwan Baan
“We believe in the value of books and literature and have wanted to do this for a long time,” outlines Silva, who says the building has been “years in the making”.

A photo of the brightly-lit Libreria bookshop in Hanbury Street, London
© Iwan Baan
“Across industries we are seeing a return to physical, material things and a fresh appreciation of craftsmanship. These things are not being killed by the digital – they are being given new life.

A photo of the brightly-lit Libreria bookshop in Hanbury Street, London
© Iwan Baan
Algorithms and the tap of intrusive recommendations are also off-limits here. The idea is for visitors to make relatively random discoveries. “We’ve reached a cultural tipping point, I think, where people are becoming aware of the costs of being constantly digitally connected,” theorises Director Sally Davies.

A photo of the brightly-lit Libreria bookshop in Hanbury Street, London
© Iwan Baan
“They crave experiences that are tangible, human, immersive. We’re bringing together the widest possible range of people, ideas, arts, crafts and disciplines.”

A photo of the brightly-lit Libreria bookshop in Hanbury Street, London
© Iwan Baan
Guest curators will include Jeanette Winterson and sculptor Richard Wentworth, who might enjoy the hand-cut lines of the shelves, supervised by artists from the Slade School of Fine Art.

A photo of the brightly-lit Libreria bookshop in Hanbury Street, London
© Iwan Baan
“They allow the categories to run horizontally and be layered - so a book of poetry might be displayed right above one on evolutionary psychology,” says co-founder Sam Aldenton, who believes the design expands the likelihood of “chance encounters”. “Niches are cut into the shelves where you can curl up with a book.”

  • Libreria opens at 65 Hanbury Street, London on February 25 2016.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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Pyle, Bridgend
A collection of more than 100,000 fiction and non-fiction books, developed over many years. Rediscover lost favourites and forgotten classics.

Seven Stories, National Centre for Children’s Books, Newcastle
A treasure trove of original artwork and manuscripts which records the creative process involved in making a children's book and provides an insight into the working lives of authors and illustrators.

News from Nowhere, Liverpool
This 5-storey building is now owned by the Workers Co-operative which runs the bookshop as a not-for-profit community business, securing its future as an essential resource for the people of Liverpool.
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