i went to foyles in charing cross road yesterday, to find that they have moved into a new store just down from the old one. the former premises were notoriously confusing, a labyrinth of rooms and changes of level and back stairs - not entirely a bad thing in a book shop where serendipitous discovery is part of the process, but maddening if you needed to find one particular thing in a hurry when, say, christmas shopping.
the new place, however, is a delight. it is arranged on half-levels around a small central atrium - this retains the experience of small flights of steps and changes of direction so characteristic of the old store, while being clear and simple. the views across the atrium display activity and tempt you up and down. to stop the thing being too obvious there is some added complexity of spaces and levels in the children's area at the back. the cafe is at the top, with exhibition and event space. the whole thing is in the currently fashionable loft-space idiom, light timbers and white walls and exposed ceiling services, dark timber and metal in the cafe.
the designers, Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands, have done a great job in retaining the essence of foyles while sorting out the problems. in an age when the bookshop is a dying species this is an example of how it can be renewed and hopefully thrive. my only complaint is that the design books are next to the lifts, such that people kept pushing past me while i was browsing.