A Bookshop Breathes New Life into Rome’s Ancient Colosseum

M+S did not want to block the views through the ancient archways. Photo by Andrea Martiradonna


August 17, 2023

Electa Bookshop has opened a new concept store in the ancient ruins of Rome’s Colosseum. Design firm Migliore+Servetto (M+S) highlights the historical backdrop with four locations spread throughout Colosseum Archaeological Park, plus unveils a special outpost in Venice for the Biennale.

At Colosseum Archaeological Park, the refreshed bookstore pops up in four locations: Colosseum First Gallery, Second Gallery, San Gregorio al Palati no, and Clivo Palatino. M+S color coded each location to create a different persona in every store. Colosseum First Gallery sizzles in sulfurous yellow, Colosseum Second Gallery burns in scarlet, San Gregorino al Palatino simmers in celadon, and Clivo Palatino shines in cadmium.

Electa Bookshop’s San Gregorino al Palatino location simmers in celadon. Photo by Andrea Martiradonna

Shoppers look upon the Colosseum while browsing books in dozens of languages and searching for souvenirs. M+S knew that the view of the archways and aged facades was just as significant as the consumer experience, so their display towers and thematic islands are nimble and interchangeable, allowing staff to move books and keep the view unobstructed. In Clivo Palatino, Electa’s newest storefront, a long window shows a panorama of the archaeological park. In this space less merchandise is displayed, and M+S built short bases under the window to keep the view a priority.

But the views of the Colosseum itself is the most antiquated part of the Electa Bookshop. Inside visitors face bold, contemporary graphics by Studio Sonnoli: silhouetted busts of philosophers’ likenesses, a stripe of ornate, composite columns, and a polkadot print of hard-edge rosebuds. The images are meant to irreverently share the history of the Colosseum, and as a bonus, are readily printable on souvenir shirts and magnets.

The displays are trimmed with a perforated metal sheeting that accents bookshelves and wall mounts, doubles as a backdrop, and filters light from outside so that it’s easier to flip through history books. At the First Gallery checkout large, semi-transparent archways frame the cashiers, referencing the surrounding architecture with a minimalist, modern touch.

Beyond the Colosseum, another Electa storefront awaits at the Venice Biennale. M+S designed this store as a contemporary Wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities, that will introduce visitors to the artists and filmmakers showing at the Biennale.

In addition to the Electa revamps, M+S is celebrating their 25th anniversary. In this time, they’ve completed 800 projects for more than 150 clients in 21 countries across the world.

Inside M+S’s refresh of Electa Bookshop. Colosseum First Gallery sizzles in sulfurous yellow. Photo by Andrea Martiradonna

“Designing means interweaving relations: like the weft of a fabric, threads are woven together, securing physical and conceptual nodes. The resulting mesh is permeable and resistant at the same time. A project is a process of weaving between spaces, objects, and people through which the stories and ideas flow,” co-founders Ico Migliore and Mara Servetto said in a joint statement.

Photo by Andrea Martiradonna


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