A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a fantastic church-turned bookstore in The Netherlands, and I loved that project so much that I started looking around for other bookstores that used to be something else.
The jewel of my findings so far is the El Ateneo in Buenos Aires. This gorgeous 1919 movie palace, complete with original frescoes and sculpted exterior carytids, was transformed into a drop-dead stunning bookstore in 2000. Working for the Brazilian publisher and bookstore chain El Ateneo, architect Fernando Manzone kept as much of the original theater as possible, including a cafe on the stage area, box seats that serve as reading nooks, and swirling, browsable balconies.
It is one of the busiest bookstores in the world: it has more than a million visitors annually and sells more than 700,000 books a year.