Behind the Books

Sanchez Benton architects , London, 2020



Photography by Florian Lüthi, Sanchez Benton architects     Download Original

  • 181_swiss_books_press_image_02_c_florian_luthi    
  • 181_swiss_books_press_image_06_c_sba_0    
  • 181_swiss_books_press_image_08_c_sba    
  • 181_swiss_books_press_image_01_c_florian_luthi_0    
  • 181_swiss_books_press_image_09_c_florian_luthi    
  • 181_swiss_books_press_image_07_c_sba    
  • 181_pr_axo    
  • 181_swiss_books_press_image_03_c_sba    
  • 181_swiss_books_press_image_04_c_sba    
  • 181_swiss_books_press_image_05_c_sba    

Behind the Books was an exhibition of the Most Beautiful Swiss Books 2018 (MBSB) at Tenderbooks, London, spanning the first two weeks of February 2020

MBSB was established in 1943 to promote and reward the best of book design in Switzerland by recognising excellence in the field of book design and production.

With a limited design and build budget of £300, the team set out to understand how to use the available budget wisely. The short life cycle of the project allowed the studio to test an idea that buildings, as temporary repositories of materials, should be designed to be easily deconstructed and re-used when their usefulness expires.

85 medium density concrete blocks and 5 ratchet straps were used to build the scenography to celebrate the awarded books. The display was driven by an economy of means with the ambition to dismantle and recycle all materials after the exhibition and leave no trace and no waste. The massive concrete blocks subverted common interpretations of temporality to create a rational yet playful backdrop to the books, referencing the masonry corbels found at the top of the bookshop’s basement walls, and inverting their stepping pattern down to the floor. The structure was built in a day.

A pallet of blocks was delivered kerbside early in the morning, and the studio formed a conveyor belt to carry them down to the bookshop’s basement to methodically assemble the structure. Bright blue ratchet straps were used to keep the masonry under compression, eliminating the need for mortar, whilst each row of blockwork was stepped back from the previous by just enough distance to maintain the center of gravity above the block below and create a ledge for the display of books.

The self-weight of the blocks resting against the brick basement wall and the void between them created the illusion of an ephemeral, light, and temporary mineral structure. Following the exhibition, all materials were returned to the original building depot, leaving no trace and reducing the overall cost of the build to the restocking charges.


  • Begun: Jan 2020
  • Completed: Feb 2020
  • Floor area: 2m2
  • Sector: Arts and culture
  • Total cost: £300
  • Funding: From The Most Beautiful Swiss Books
  • Tender date: Jan 2020
  • Procurement: Self Build
  • Address: Tenderbooks, 6 Cecil Ct, Covent Garden, London, WC2, United Kingdom