There are no televisions here

Whether Paju Book City will live up to its motto at christening, “A City to Recover Lost Humanity,” remains to be seen, but it’s great to see so much thought and stunning architecture going into supporting and celebrating the life of books—of making them and of reading them.

The idea of a city of books evokes a fantastical vision: towers of tottering volumes, narrow alleys formed by canyons and stacks of dusty hardbacks, formal avenues between loaded shelves. Like something imagined by Calvino or Borges, it conjures up a city of wisdom and surprise, of endless narratives, meaning, knowledge and languages. What it does not evoke is an industrial estate bounded by a motorway and the heavily guarded edge of a demilitarised zone. Yet somehow, South Korea’s Paju Book City begins to reconcile these two extremes into one of the most unexpected and remarkable architectural endeavours.

Built on marshland, former flood plains and paddyfields 30km north-west of Seoul, Paju Book City is an attempt to create an ambitious new town based exclusively around publishing….

At the centre of the city stands a huge cultural complex, designed by Kim Byung-yoon, a combination of hotel (in which, it was pointed out to me, there are no TVs), restaurants, auditoriums and, on the roof, an urbane, elevated realm of seating, shops, libraries and galleries overlooking the sparkling waters of the river and the Simhak Mountain.

from “A city dedicated to books and print,” by Edwin Heathcole, Financial Times, 21 August 2009 :: thanks Adrianna!

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