In this project, a bookstore specializing in English-language texts and literature in Montevideo, Uruguay, we inserted an unconventional remodel into a conventional urban zone. The client asked us to remodel a nineteenth-century colonial-style home in a quiet residential neighborhood into a bookshop with a large display area, a space for public readings and teachers’ meetings, several administrative offices and a book depository. Because the original building could not accommodate the client’s needs, our project was radical from the beginning.
The project involved construction on two different planes. First, the load-bearing masonry of the old house was replaced by steel beams. From the steel beams, a slab of reinforced concrete was added at the mezzanine level to divide the pre-existing space into two levels. Secondly, the facade (whose formal definition comes from a flipping up of the shape of the mezzanine) was opened to generate a large storefront, one of the client’s principal requests. The remaining double-height space is the setting for readings that are visible from the street. Throughout the building, the new forms invade the pre-existing structure in a number of different ways, generating spaces that are utilized to fulfill the program. To retain a sense of the original building, existing floors and ceilings, including an ornate plate glass ceiling and a checkerboard marble floor, were carefully preserved.