The Galleria is Korea’s first and largest upscale department store franchise founded in the 1970s, and has remained at the forefront of the premium retail market in the country since then. The store in Gwanggyo—a new town just south of Seoul—is the sixth branch of Galleria. Located at the center of this young urban development surrounded by tall residential towers, the Galleria’s stone-like appearance makes it a natural point of gravity for public life in Gwanggyo.
The target of being a “a natural point of gravity” is mentioned. Why did you need such a point of gravity for the city?
The city of Gwanggyo, 45 minutes outside of Seoul, is primarily a residential town. Upon our fist arrival to the site, we perceived that it was mainly characterized by tall, homogeneous, neutral-colored residential towers, a city with a complete absence of identity or and a natural urban center for people to go to and meet. That is why we proposed to create a building that would anchor the city beyond its residential status.
Was the idea of creating a stone-like appearance and disrupting the organic order born to make a contrast with the surrounding structures?
The new buildings in Gwanggyo all seem very volatile, as if they are constructed as temporary buildings without the intention to make Gwanggyo into a city. The use of the stone block is a response to this volatility, it provides substance to an area which is lacking substance. This is what we mean with anchoring.
At the same time the façade is definitely intended to create a dialogue with the surrounding. Rather than making a contrast, we wanted the stone to fit with the rest of the town, and so we searched for colors that would both be outstanding but could also be found in the surrounding.
3) Considering the feature of being the most remarkable structure in its region; can you describe your design as “sculptural”?
As you please. The basic volume of the projects is a cube, which in itself is the least sculptural shape one can imagine. The challenge in so many retail projects is to work with the scale of such volumes and with only opaque facades. So where usually the approach is to introduce a ‘human’-scale, by breaking the box in smaller boxes and introduce a variety of facade types, we emphasized the monumental scale of the volume and applied a single stone façade. The public loop we see as a chiseled trail which gradually reveals some of the interior life to the city and vice versa.
4) In addition to the effect of the facade, what kind of effect did you target on the user in the interior?
Publicness. The underlying idea driving the design is the challenge of the traditional retail program in order to increase its publicness – we wanted people to perceive the Galleria not only as a shopping mall but also as a cultural space, a place to hang out. And so we created the public loop, whose function is to pick people from the sidewalk on the main entrance and guide them through the building until the top terrace.
Interview: İrem Efe