Page Turner: A new architectural bookshop has opened its doors in Sydney

Nov 7, 2018 Architecture

We all love books, but architects seem to have a special affinity for the written word, beautiful photographs, and drawings. This passion is what drove Adam Haddow, a director with SJB, to take a gamble and open his own architectural bookshop in Crown Street, Surry Hills.

Haddow has spent the best part of twenty years creating such landmark projects as Glebe Harbour; 10 Wylde Street; Casba; Young and Loftus; and the redevelopment of the old St Margaret’s Hospital in Darlinghurst. Haddow’s work is all about well-planned, paired-back excellence, with an overlay of craftsmanship and tradition.

Thankfully, he’s not quitting his day job as one of Australia’s most respected architects. The bookshop is a labour of love.

“It’s super important we not only do buildings, but we support design and architecture within the broader community and to our colleagues,” says Haddow. “The Institute Bookshop – Architext –  at Tusculum (Potts Point) used to be an important part of the architectural community, but it closed in 2015, and I really miss it. It was the place you went, not just to buy books, but where you always ran into someone you knew. It was a window into the world outside your office, to the broader architectural community.”

Haddow, is determined that his bookshop also becomes a social hub for the architectural community, hosting book launches, presentations, talks, and even a book club. A meeting room at the rear of the shop will be available to community groups. There won’t be a coffee shop on site, but with the myriad of baristas and roasters on Crown Street already, no one will be short of a caffeine fix.

The bookshop will be run by Annie Proudfoot, who manned the counter at Architext for many years. She will be assisted by Meredith Buhler, from the Museum of Contemporary Art Store.

Not only will Haddow have his name over the door, but he also designed the paired back interiors, using a single palette of Tasmanian oak for the integrated seating, cork floors throughout, and a massive mirror at the rear to create light, depth and intrigue.

The range of books will cover everything from architecture, to interior design, planning and urban design. Many of the books are not available online, and there will be a selection of non-English language books, and hard-to-get volumes from Japan and Latin America. Major publishing houses will be represented, as well as some smaller niche publishers. Haddow will be curating the range to ensure quality over quantity.

“I was at the RABA bookshop in London last week and they have something like 22,000 books available,” says Haddow. “We won’t have that many, but I’m aiming to get to about 6,000 books eventually.”

As for his customers, Haddow is expecting most to be architects and their clients, as well as the architectural and design-curious. The heavy foot-traffic on Crown Street should also get plenty of punters through the door.

And although bricks and mortar retailing is a tough game in this age of E-commerce, Haddow doesn’t seem too concerned.

“For architects, the process of buying a book isn’t just a transaction, it’s an enjoyable experience, where you can touch the pages and engage with the space, rather than just going on Amazon,” he says. “This will be much more than a bookshop.”

As for Haddow’s own favourite architecture books, he nominates In Praise of Shadows, by Junichiro Tanizaki: “An amazing exploration of traditional Japanese aesthetics”, and Additive Architecture: “A seminal work that pulls together Utzon’s writings and drawings.”

The Architects’ Book Shop Opens on November 8, at 499 Crown Street, Surry Hills. For more information, visit the website here.

About the Author: Stephen Lacey

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