A Life in Books(helves) - Popular Woodworking Magazine

A Life in Books(helves)

 In Feature Articles

Bookshelves are always a popular subject with our readers. In fact, I’m willing to bet one of my copies of “Henry V” that 90 percent of you have built a bookshelf , and that for at least half of you, it was your first furniture project (pine boards on bricks, anyone?).

The first functional thing I ever built was a set of pine shelves held together with L-brackets, and while I gave away a similar set a few months back when I built my “Bibliophile’s Bookcase” (which appeared in the December 2009 issue), I still have that first set. Yeah, I should make another “nice” bookcase , something that doesn’t embarrass me as a woodworker , but I don’t really want to get rid of my first project, despite its unlovely appearance. Or maybe I’m simply lazy.

But I think I’ve stumbled upon the perfect bookshelves. I have a multitude of tomes , but not nearly enough to fill this thing. It would hold every book I’ve ever owned, much less those I now have.

This “bookcase apartment” is an installation piece titled “Ark,” designed by Rintala Eggertsson Architects for the Victoria & Albert Museum’s “Small Spaces” Exhibit. While it’s not truly a functional apartment (there’s the small matter of no bathroom or kitchen), the concept of using one’s books as physical walls holds great appeal for me.

The description of “Ark” on the V&A site reads, “The faÃ?§ades of the tower consist of hundreds of shelves, holding thousands of books. Oriented to face inwards, the book spines gather together to form a rich collage of colours and typographic textures. In contrast, the exterior faÃ?§ade of the structure is dominated by the minimalist white of exposed page edges…

“The project investigates how small spaces can focus our energies and thoughts in moments of study, meditation and self-reflection.”

I could certainly use some focused energy for more than a few moments of study. (I really must work on that dissertation soon….)

Pasi Aalto shot the photo above (used with permission); click through to the photography portfolio at pasiaalto.com to see more.

– Megan Fitzpatrick

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Showing 4 comments
  • kerry doyle

    So how does the center ‘tower’ function. I see no support for books, which leads me to believe maybe the books are displayed face-out instead of spine out.
    For readers without books but wishing to impress anyway, go to the second-hand store or a library sale and buy some cheapos. You can then glue the spines together and cut away the back 2/3 of the pages. It works in model homes and other ads, why not yours?

  • megan

    True – it is lacking a little in basic function…but it’s an excellent starting point!

  • Rainer

    I agree, Gye. With no space but for tomes, it also lacks the personality that pictures, etc. give a space. Sure, you can do knick-knacks, but they’d be lost in the volumes of books.

    We have far too many books myself–if that isn’t a contradiction–but we’d go nuts without our pictures and stuff. And where’s the stereo and 46" TV? (OK, maybe not the TV, but the stereo? Think of the children!) 🙂

    The space would be great for a library or bookstore, but not a home.


  • Gye Greene

    I liked the concept — but the architects forgot to design in **living** space. If they’d made it even 3ft wider (or deeper), it could have been an **actual** living space: a bed on one level, bathroom on another, sitting room on another, and a kitchenette on another.

    Again, good concept, though.

    Did a quick estimate, and I think we have around 2,900 books (8 shelves x 40 books x 9 bookshelf-equivalents). Although that’s a slight undercount — esp. if you don’t count comic books (I used to collect…).


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