Bookshelf of the Week: The ‘Ark’

Welcome to this week’s Bookshelf of the Week, and how could I possibly miss out on featuring one of the most talked about bookshelf structures this week, the ‘Ark’.

The brainchild of Scandinavian architects, Rintala Eggertsson, the Ark was conceived for the special 1:1 Architects Build Small Spaces exhibition, currently running at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London. Working on the theme of refuge and retreat, the V&A Museum approached nineteen different architects inviting them to propose design solutions at various pitches around the museum; all of which were selected for their obvious confinement. Of the nineteen concept designs that were returned, seven were chosen to be replicated in a built state, and Rintala Eggertsson’s genius Ark tower emerged as one of those seven.

Looking at the space created in the stairwell that leads up to the V&A’s National Art Library, there was only one solution that screamed out to the Rintala Eggertsson team. They had to construct some kind of book tower so they could connect to the theme of books, and viola the Ark was born. It was prefabricated by the architectural team in a rented workshop in Kent, before being constructed in its exhibition space in the V & A Museum (this video clip shows the Ark in construction, along with an interview with architect Dagur Eggertsson).

The Ark contains approx 6000 books. And all of these books have been purposely positioned so that their spines face inwards, revealing nothing to the viewer from the outside of the tower. It is only when one enters the tower and begins ascending the staircase that the nature of the books is revealed (and at this point I URGE YOU to go and watch this video, filmed by exhibition assistant Laura Southall, which offers a great first-person impression of what it’s like to ascend within the tower itself).

Personally I adore the Ark. And although some are calling it a giant Ikea bookcase (Dagur Eggertsson mentions this himself in that previously linked-to video), I would like nothing better than to fill the stairwell in my home – which is sizable but nowhere near as capacious – with a similar structure. The whole theme of this 1:1 Architects Build Small Spaces exhibition is, as I’ve said, one of refuge and retreat. And I can think of no finer refuge to retreat to, than one where every wall is lined with books; in fact where every wall is formed by books. I love it passionately. And I hope you do to.

If you’re lucky enough to be in or around the V & A Museum anytime in July or August then you can pop in to see the Ark for yourself, and ascend that stairway to bookish heaven. The exhibition is FREE and it runs until August 30th. And remember it’s not just the Rintala Eggertsson book tower that’s on show. You can also feast your eyes on the other six designs chosen to be displayed as ‘built structures’. What’s more the exhibition also includes the concept models of all nineteen entries. So well worth a visit. Full details and further information can be found on the exhibition website.

So fellow reader that’s the Ark, the perfect subject I think for this week’s Bookshelf of the Week. But what do you think? Do you love the Ark or do you hate it? Does it feel like the perfect place to seek refuge (I suggest you really do watch that video to help you decide), or is it nothing more than an Ikea bookcase on hormone pills? Let me know in the comments below.

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books)


  1. Luuurv it!

  2. Amy (Twitter: amckiereads)

    I love, love, love it! I want one 🙂

    • Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

      If I could Amy, I’d buy you one. Then we could mail one another from the top of our towers :o)

      • Amy (Twitter: amckiereads)

        Heh, that would be hilarious. If I could I’d buy you one so that we would both have them to mail one another from our towers!

  3. Want one! 🙂

  4. love it rob. Off to B&Q to recreate the very thing in my own home 😉

  5. Forget the animals. I’d take books with me on the ark! Love this. Would do it in my house – if I had the space and the cash.

  6. I want one. We all want one!!!!

  7. Oh my – that is some bookshelf! I don’t think I’d ever be able to choose a book though because as I walked up or down the stairs I’d keep spotting something else to read!

    • Rob (Twitter: robaroundbooks)

      Great to hear from you Claire. Yeah I think architects, Rintala Eggertsson could have a thriving business on their hands if they started manufacturing ‘Arks’. The good thing for you though is you’d never have to ‘walk up and down the stairs’ all that often given that there’s a comfortable cubby hole at the top. The only problem then though – for you at least Claire – is how many piles you can gather around that cubby hole before the floor gives way. Maybe you could speak to them about floor strengthening 🙂

  8. Thank you for all the nice comments! Unfortunately we have now dismantled the structure and are looking for someone to take it over. If anyone of you is interested, please contact us ( Our deadline is 30/11. Best regards – Dagur.


  1. […] book tower was built as an design contest sponsored by the Victoria & Albert Museum. You can explore the […]

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