AL Rawi Bookshop and Cafe
Al Majaz Waterfront Sharjah, UAE
Completed 2018
815 sqm

The brief was to create far more than just a bookstore. The client wanted a multi-functional space that would reflect Sharjah’s literary heritage (the Sharjah International Book Fair began in 1982), and be a contemporary hub for the emirate’s community of booklovers, writers and publishers. The result: a cross-over space that is a cafe, restaurant, event location, bookstore and children’s creative zone.

Wallpaper magazine praised Al Rawi as “uplifting and informal,” noting that “Sharjah’s creative community has a new destination for work and play.” (Click here to read more.)

Al Rawi means ‘the one who tells stories’ in Arabic, so we developed a design narrative inspired by the diverse ways people interact with books. We played with the concept of the positive/negative space that books create on a shelf, so in Al Rawi, most of the book shelves are in the center of the floor, not against walls, allowing light and shade to dance around the space.

The stitch detail from book spines is a recurring theme. We used it on a large scale as space dividers, and on a more intimate scale as a handrail detail. Instead of string we chose a tactile, rubber material that invites visitors to touch and feel it. Continuing the literary theme, we created custom sculptures, furniture and a dramatic mobile suspended from the ceiling, all inspired by books and words in both English and Arabic.

Al Rawi is set over two floors at Sharjah’s Al Majaz Waterfront, enjoying floor-to-ceiling views over Khalid Lagoon, the Al Majaz fountain, Noor island and the corniche.

Products / Max Design lounge chairs, Ton dining chairs, La Cividina outdoor furniture, Fontana Arte floor lamp, Muuto and e15 pendant lights and graphic printed table tops with Arabic typography.

Materials / Terrazzo effect floor tile, Colortek concrete paint, Kvadarat and Kirkby by Design textiles for upholstery and Mutina tiles.

It’s been shortlisted for multiple awards in both hospitality and retail categories, winning Retail Project of the Year at the Design Middle East Awards 2018.