For those living in busy urban centres, it can be hard to find an escape. As populations rise, the hustle and bustle fills up every corner, and finding a quiet corner and a moment alone seems impossible. Wonderland, Ma Yansong’s recent installation in a Beijing bookstore, suggests an escape route – through a book. By slipping on a pair of headphones, one can shut out the clamour of his or her surroundings, and wander into the world mapped out on the page.
The reading room was commissioned by Life magazine in celebration of World Book Day. Yansong and his firm, MAD Architects (which is behind the curvaceous Absolute Towers in Mississauga, Ontario) borrowed inspiration from Lewis Carroll’s classic tale to construct an inflated rabbit’s head with flopping ears, fitted out with giant black headphones. With its back to the interior of the Page One shop, the rabbit shuts out the world around it to form a cozy sanctuary that faces the window. Book lovers can hunker down on the bean bag cushions that line the interior, then watch the streetscape below fall away – only the treetops, sun and sky remaining to share the fictional world with them.
Though Wonderland’s whimsy and scale makes it ideal for children, and it serves as an enchanting portal to the enjoyment of reading for the young, it’s an equally tempting refuge for adults. Along with it, Yansong offers his own reading recommendations, including a visit to the fantastical realms of the The Alchemist (for grown-up readers), and The Wonderful Adventures of Nils (for younger ones).
Mad Architects’ Wonderland installation will be on view at the Page One Beijing Sanlitun bookstore until May 22.