‘Literature’ – It is defined simply as ‘writing formed with words’. Humanity has depended on literature for centuries. It has been a sanctuary for their opinions, expressions, and desires. Within these words are conjured magnificent worlds. Words wield power to create, transform, and destroy. This power enables them to build a world in the reader’s imagination. We wish for these literary worlds to become our reality. A few architects attempted to merge these literary worlds with ground reality. 

Let us take a walk down these realms where literary worlds transcend into the real world.

1.The hobbit motel at Woodlyn Park

Location: Woodlyn Park, New Zealand

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”This is the description given by J.R.R. Tolkien in his renowned work ‘The Hobbit’.

These words seem to have laid the foundation for the hobbit motel units in Woodlyn Park. The whimsical accommodation recreates the hobbit dwellings in design and aura. It is a popular destination for tourists trying to get a taste of the hobbit life in a bucolic setting.

The hobbit motel in Woodlyn Park ©www.uniqhotels.com/
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The interior ©https://www.uniqhotels.com/
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The interior ©http://www.woodlynpark.co.nz/

2.Yangzhou Zhongshuge by XL-Muse

Location: Yangzhou, China

The bookstore is set in the part of Yangzhou that was popular amidst the literati in history. The paradisiacal quality of the location was the guiding light for the designers. The bookstore’s concept is derived from Chinese literature. A verse from the Chinese classic, “Dream of the Red Chamber,” set the wheels in motion for the actualization of this project. 

The symbolization of water and bridges can be clearly seen in the bookstore. The architects envisioned the bookstore as a link between the past and present and between books and humans. The black mirror flooring and arching bookshelves transport the visitors to an Elysian world of literature. 

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Interior imitating water and arched bridges ©www.archdaily.com/
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Interior view ©www.archdaily.com/
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Entry to a section ©www.archdaily.com/

3.Abbotsford – Sir Walter Scott’s residence

Location: Galashiels, Scotland

‘Waverly’ is one of the most famous works of Sir Walter Scott’s prose fiction career. The historical fiction created ripples in literary circles. The book welcomed the reader into the world of the 18th-century Scottish aristocracy. The novel also garnered attention for the picturesque description of the baronial architecture in it.

Tully- Veolan castle – the residence of one of the lead characters in Waverly plays a vital role in the book. Sir Walter Scott himself was quite enamored by this particular residence that he had conjured up in his novel. The book inspired the design of his residence ‘Abbotsford’. This Scots Baronial style mansion is a significant tourist destination. It is preserved today as a symbol of Scottish architectural and literary history.

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Abbotsford ©www.scottsabbotsford.com/
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Entrance hall ©www.scottsabbotsford.com/
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The library©www.scottsabbotsford.com/

4.The Sherlock Holmes Museum

Location: London, United Kingdom

The address “221B Baker Street” is etched in the memory of every Sherlock Holmes fan. Even though it was a fictional address created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, it appeared authentic to most readers. This compelling desire must have triggered the attempt to make it a reality. 

A Georgian house in Baker Street, London was converted into The Sherlock Holmes Museum in 1990. The house already spotted the architectural features of the era. But further changes were made to replicate the description of Sherlock Holmes residence from the book series. The ground floor is more tourist-oriented. The first and second floors, however, appear frozen in time and impart a feeling of accompanying Sherlock Holmes and Watson. The building is protected for its historical and architectural significance.

The Sherlock Holmes Museum- sheet1
Entrance to the museum ©www.eng.ed.ac.uk/
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Sherlock Holmes’ living room ©www.eng.ed.ac.uk/
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Dr. Watson’s bedroom ©www.eng.ed.ac.uk/

5.Kafka Castle by Ricardo Bofill

Location: Sant Pere de Ribes, Spain

A building inspired by Kafka’s dystopian and surreal novel seems like a daunting task. Especially when it is a residential building aimed to provide comfort to many families. Architect Ricardo Bofill not only met the challenge successfully, but he also created a new language in apartment buildings. 

Designed with an innovative approach in cellular housing typology, ‘Kafka Castle’ stands apart; the elements of Kafka’s work such as surrealism and deconstruction, are evident in the design of the building. Unlike Kafka’s ‘Castle’, Ricardo Bofill’s work does not induce a sense of alienation and gloom in the user.


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Kafka Castle ©www.archello.com/
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The pattern of volumes ©www.archello.com/
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Living room in one of the units ©www.archello.com/

6.Doha Mondrian by Marcel Wanders

Location: Qatar

The ‘1001 Arabian nights’ was the portal that introduced Middle Eastern folk literature to the west. The book wasn’t particularly regarded in Arabic literature. But the western world was fascinated by the fantasy world of genies, flying carpets, and magic lamps.

The Dutch architect sought inspiration from the same folk tales to design the Doha Mondrian hotel. The design displays the essence of theatrics and whimsy. The hotel has highly ornate interiors with contrasting color schemes. The eccentricity and opulence in the design do bring fantasy to life. The facade of the building adopts the symbolization of the national bird of Qatar – The falcon.

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Atrium and floating staircase ©www.marcelwanders.com/
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One of the lobbies ©www.marcelwanders.com/
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One of the dining spaces ©www.marcelwanders.com/

7.The Museum of Innocence 

Location: Istanbul, Turkey

A list of buildings from literature is incomplete without the mention of The Museum of Innocence’. Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk’s book of the same name is quite popular. The author is a master storyteller, and his works often capture the melancholy within normal life. 

The museum of innocence developed alongside the book. It chronicles the objects of everyday life of the Turkish upper-class. The museum draws inspiration from the eponymous book, but it doesn’t limit itself to the narrative of the book. Nevertheless, a visit to the museum is sure to invoke images of the novel in your mind.

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Entry to the museum  ©www.atlasobscura.com/
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An exhibit named as ‘My father’s death’  ©www.atlasobscura.com/
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Orhan Pamuk in the museum  ©www.atlasobscura.com/

8.The March Rabbit, Seoul

Location: Seoul, South Korea

‘Alice in Wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll, is adored by children and adults alike. It has inspired many creative minds. The architects of L’EAU design voyaged down the rabbit hole and created this delightful mixed-use building. The design was inspired by the character of March Hare’ from the book.

In the book, March Hare plays a prominent role. He is the one who guides Alice into the fantasy world. In a way, he alters the definition of Alice’s world. Similarly, this project attempts to change the definition of the city center. Moreover, just like the March Hare, this building plays multiple roles.

The March Rabbit, Seoul- sheet1
View of the building  ©www.archdaily.com/
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The pattern of volumes – Conceptual diagram ©www.archdaily.com/
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Conceptual section ©www.archdaily.com/

9.Maiden Tower by Marte Architects

Location: Vorarlberg, Austria

Children’s literature has always opened doors to new worlds. Fairy tales and folk tales have accompanied us as we grew up. Children find their sanctuary in these stories. It isn’t surprising that when it came to designing a space for his daughters, Ar. Stefan Marte turned to fairy tales for inspiration.

This addition to Mr. Marte’s residence was inspired by Rapunzel’s tower. The structure is steel clad and towers over the residence with its contrasting design. The tower is connected to the main home through a library. It almost appears like a metaphor for the worlds a library opens to kids.

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A view of the maiden tower ©www.archdaily.com/
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The contrast between new and old parts of the residence ©www.archdaily.com/
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View from the tower ©www.archdaily.com/

10.The Danteum by Giuseppe Terragni

Location: Rome, Italy

‘The Danteum’ is a monument that was proposed during the time of Benito Mussolini in Italy. The project was proposed by a Dante scholar. The project, however, remained unrealized.

Terragni was an ardent follower of modernism and rationalism in architecture. He utilized the same to navigate the levels of Dante’s Divine Comedy and create this project. 

Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ narrates the poet’s descent into hell, then purgatory and finally paradise. Terragni mimicked this journey using the arrangement of sequential spaces. Terragni focused on the structure of the work and represented it through architecture.

The Danteum by Giuseppe Terragni- sheet1
Digital visualization of ‘Paradiso’ in Danteum ©www.archeyes.com/
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Sketches of the concept ©www.archeyes.com/
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Conceptual view of the monument ©www.archeyes.com/

Happily Ever After …

‘There are great books in this world and great worlds in books.’ These words attributed to Anne Bronte, reminds us how we are in a way surrounded by these parallel universes. Authors and poets hide these fascinating worlds within the pages of a book. Architecture becomes the medium that reconstructs these hidden worlds in ours. Each of us treasures a literary universe in our hearts. If it were up to you, which work of literature would you bring to life?


Namita is an architect. Her experience at COSTFORD paved her interest in the architectural philosophies of Laurie Baker. She has a passion for writing. Her mother, a preceptor in English literature instilled in her the passion for books and languages. She also loves to explore new places and wishes to be a globetrotter.

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