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Emory University Bookstore


This project is the renovation of Emory University Bookstore, which had been designed by John Portman & Associates.  The bookstore is a hemicycle plan with a central circular glazed opening for a stair.  It was located in the R. Howard Dobbs University Building; a building also designed by John Portman & Associates that opened in 1986.


The goal of the project was to increase the efficiency, space utilization and functionality of the bookstore, while maintaining an aesthetic integrity.


The first step was to analyze the existing mercantile plan.  The store manager explained how the bookstore functioned.  The textbooks shelving units were arranged in radii pattern that was centered on a glazed circular central opening.  The trade books, being those books written by the professors of the various schools and departments within the university, were on shelving units that lined the curved outside wall of the hemicycle space. 


The original intent was that the trade books were to be on those shelves closest to the textbooks of the curricula that were taught by the different professors.  However, overtime, with changes in the curricula, the relationship between text and trade books became lost.  The result was chaotic, making related subject matter difficult to find.  The sales space for other mercantile items lacked focus.  The lighting in the bookstore followed the 2x2-ceiling grid, which left some merchandise in shadow.


From discussions with the store manager and the store department managers, it was realized that a new mercantile plan was needed, that would make best use of the hemicycle space.  The goal became to create a new store within the existing bookstore that focused on trade books, and to create separate focus sales areas for the other “lost” merchandise.  The creation of focused sales areas then allowed the reorganization of the textbooks.  Additionally, the store manager identified the need to have extra cash registers during book rush. 


A new merchandising plan was developed and reviewed with the sales managers for each bookstore department and the bookstore manager.  The new merchandising plan allowed for more efficient space utilization, resulting in the creation of four distinct zones within the existing store, which were for the trade books, alumni souvenirs, university clothing and text books.  Other specific merchandising areas were also created as needed.


The trade book area was separated from the other parts of the bookstore by a zigzag divider wall.  Designed into the zigzag wall was an oculus window that was behind the circular transaction counter of the trade bookstore.  This window offered views from one area to another.  A series of mahogany veneer columns offered design accents to the zigzag divider wall.  Decorative light covers over square utility light fixtures repeated the cross geometry of the oculus window.  Within the trade bookstore, a merchandising area focused on the “child within each of us” called the Kid Zone was created.  A section of the shelving on the curved wall was removed to create a space for a bench and the display of a painting of Lullwater Park, a garden near the university.  The trade book store was named “Lullwater Books.”


The alumni souvenir sales area was on the opposite side of the zigzag divider wall, utilizing sales display wall panels that were incorporated into the divider wall.  Modifications were made to some of shelving units for additional souvenir display.


To bring attention to the university clothing area, colored neon lights were suspended from the ceiling, and this sales area was located next to the only window in the curved exterior wall of the hemicycle space that coincidentally looked over the main entrance of the Dobbs University Center.  Mannequins were placed in that window, dressed in samples of the university clothing.  This created spatial excitement and served as a visual anchor drawing people through the store to this profitable sales area.


The result of separating the trade books, souvenirs and clothing from the textbooks was that a better utilization of the remaining space could be realized.  The half-circle end cap tops to the radii shelving units were removed to afford increased visibility within the bookstore. 


A special sub-area within the textbooks was established for the law students.  The bookstore department manager office had windows that opened to the sales floor, to enable the managers to be more accessible to the patrons.


The solution for book rush was the design of a convertible sales display with a clock tower.  The vertical clock tower allowed concealment of the wiring for the extra cash registers, as well as concealed storage.  The waterfall tables converted into three sales transaction counters, with expansion for a fourth if needed.


New suspended fluorescent lighting was added, arranged on a radii pattern between the textbook shelves to illuminate the book faces.  Track lighting was added in other specific areas to allow flexibility and to provide focus illumination of the merchandise.


The net result was that, because of an increase of efficiency and a better utilization of the space, the renovation within a year’s time sales had increased with a measurable increase of profit.  



Nelson Brackin Architect project.

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