Culture is too often measured in art institutions. Yet places like Volumes give you the real pulse of a city's art and design. To say this is our only source of Archi-Lit would be to damn it with faint praise. Everything about this store -- its selection of books, its movable fabric walls and ceilings, and owner-designed shelves -- distinguishes it as the city's best recent Design den.
The place is small, but it's substantial enough for browsers in search of a book about Gaudí to stray into a collection of writings by Walter Benjamin or Le Corbusier. Its ambitions are considerably larger. In addition to selling books, Volumes in the past year has sponsored film festivals, lectures, book drives and exhibitions of drawings and photographs. The result is a smart, elegant hub in a downtown that, the last time we looked, still has plenty of room for architecture and intellects to flourish.