Gallery: El Ateneo: Grand Old Theater Transformed into the World’s Most...

The transformation from theater to bookstore consisted of removing the cinema seating and installing rows upon rows of bookshelves.

The original building was designed by architects Peró and Torres Armengol and opened as the Teatro Gran Splendid in May 1919. Like much of the architecture from the period, the interior features lavish details such as a ceiling frescoespainted by the Italian artist Nazareno Orlandi and caryatids sculpted by Troiano Troiani. The transformation from theater to bookstore consisted of removing the cinema seating and installing rows upon rows of bookshelves. Customers wishing to curl up with a book have their choice of many chairs scattered throughout the store including the original theater boxes. The area behind the stage is now a café.

In 2007, El Ateneo Gran Splendid sold over 700,000 books and over a million people walk through its doors annually. In 2008, The Guardian places El Ateneo in the number two spot on its 2008 list of the World’s Ten Best Bookshops.

+ Fernando Manzone


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  1. MrCotain April 9, 2011 at 11:47 pm

    Great reuse of an amazing space!! very dramatic!!

  2. clarebear April 1, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    It says in the third sentence that the book store is in Buenos Aires:
    “Toto, we’re not in Barnes and Noble anymore… Take one step inside this incredibly ornate megachamber and you’re sure to realize that it isn’t your average bookstore. El Ateneo Grand Splendid in Buenos Aires is one of the most dramatic booksellers in the world, which makes a lot of sense considering the space used to be a theater. Architect Fernando Manzone converted the cinema into a shop, but retained many parts of the theater from the stage to the incredible architectural details and even the red curtains – a material-saving move that paid off judging from the shop’s popularity.”

  3. abitare March 14, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    Nowhere in the article does it say were this bookstore is! Though in one of the pictures I can read a sign that says Argentina, so, is this book store in Buenos Aires?
    Houston had a bookstore called Bookstop in what used to be the Alabama Theater, then it became of all things a Barns and Noble, it closed a couple of years ago. The Alabama Theater I must say was not even close, not by a mile, to the Grand Splendid Theater in its beauty!

  4. Anthony C March 14, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    You don’t mention where this is. It’s kind of an important piece of information, no? You shouldn’t make your readers go to Wikipedia to find out basic things like that.

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