Part of the well-known El Ateneo chain of shops, El Ateneo Grand Splendid is on the list of most visited bookstores in the world. Housed in a historic theater, this bookstore attracts just as many photographers as it does readers, and inspires a few thoughts about the reuse of architecture in a city...
I spent a pleasant afternoon here, leafing through design books and sipping coffee from the stage, looking out at the books as if they were anticipating my next monologue. Luckily for everyone, they just listen quietly and don't expect much entertainment from the stage (I'm a horrible actor).
A tourist attraction to be sure, over 1 million people visit the shop annually. The stats got me thinking about the reuse of buildings. In the U.S. there are many abandoned theaters from town to town that could use a new life. Is the combination of a commercial use/tourist attraction the answer? Back home, bookshops are having a hard time keeping the doors open, but perhaps other types of stores could make ends meet and help preserve our architectural gems.
(Images: Smith Schwartz)