A Sense of Home: Books Kinokuniya in Singapore (Part 2)
By Daryl Li
Continued from A Sense of Home: Books Kinokuniya in Singapore (Part 1)
In 2013, not long after it had spent a significant amount of money giving its Ngee Ann City store a facelift, Kinokuniya was asked to move to make way for “new retail options”. The news was disappointing. Keen to keep its location at the mall, however, it shifted up to the fourth floor of Ngee Ann City. The move took place in 2014, with renovations beginning in July and the opening in November. Not only was this move costly – with renovations estimated at $7 million – It also reduced the space available to the store, going from 43,000 to 33,000 square feet.
Correspondingly, the 500,000 books that it had originally had in stock were reduced to 400,000. Yet, even in change, there was continuity. Tan Kay Ngee, who designed the original Ngee Ann City store, was tasked with working on this new store as well.
In March 2017, the store saw an expansion of 5,000 square feet, with new frontage inspired by the image of an open book. Previously recognisable but compressed, the expansion helps the space to breathe. It merges seamlessly with the original store, right down to the granite used for the floor. Of note, the Japanese and Chinese sections, previously compacted due to space constraints, has now been restored to their former glory. Even though the expansion is but a fraction of the entire space, the effects can be felt throughout the whole store.
Visiting the store again after the official launch of this expansion on 9 March 2017, I was struck by how it possessed an air of renewal. Perhaps this story best represents Kinokuniya’s identity, as it fashions itself according to different cultures and changing circumstances, while finding a way to remain true to its principles. Each time I return to this bookstore, I find changes big and small. It never stops growing. Yet, somehow, it remains the Kinokuniya of my adolescence in my mind. Thus I will keep returning, in search of books and stories, seeking new discoveries, new connections, and the memories of long ago.