More Than Words, a social enterprise located in Boston, MA, is dedicated to training and preparing inner-city youth to enter the workforce. By employing them in a retail bookstore owned by More Than Words, the youth receive valuable real-world skills as they run day-to-day operations at the shop. But More Than Words goes beyond workplace training, providing a safe space for these young adults whom are often at risk of dropping out of school, facing homelessness, or becoming involved in gang-related activities. A very successful social venture and business model, More Than Words quickly outgrew its original space on the second floor of a defunct textile factory. With the first floor tenants relocating, More Than Words jumped on the opportunity to expand its program to the ground level, doubling its capacity for retail and storage and, in turn, being able to reach more youths.
A compelling storefront to draw visitors into the bookstore was of utmost importance, especially since cost of retail space in the neighborhood was rising with new, high-end residences being built. This made exploring and generating new revenue streams also essential. Furthermore, the design had to reflect the social mission of More Than Words and be able to show the public that this was not an ordinary bookstore.
This proposal involved using one rigid system--a series of custom, single-loaded bookcases with glass backing-- to soften the rigidity of another--the column grid. These bookcases became central to the overall design and were pervasive throughout the space. By weaving the bookcases around the columns, new spaces were delineated and could organize the retail space by genre. Additionally, using single-loaded bookcases allowed for distinct boundaries to be created dependent on what was and was not accessible to the public. Spaces surrounded by the spine of the book denoted publicly accessible; on the opposite side, spaces with the fore edge showing denoted private areas reserved for More Than Words employees.
Other programs introduced include a small event space on the second floor for visiting authors, group functions and performances, a roof garden, and a bookstore cafe complete with walk-up order window.
The proposed furniture from Emeco, left, utilizes similar materiality and forms consistent with the rest of the design concept, and are even available in finishes which match the More Than Words graphic color standards. At right, the final material palette. The existing heavy timber and wood finishes blend with the thin, brushed aluminum and glass of the bookcases. Of course, once the bookcases are filled, the books themselves also become part of the overall materiality.