In designing a new fifteen-story headquarters for international luxury clothier Shinsegae International, Olson Kundig sought to create an iconic landmark in the heart of Gangnam-gu, one of Seoul’s largest districts. Completed in 2015, the building unites more than five hundred Shinsegae employees, who were previously spread between several buildings throughout the city. The program includes staff offices and meeting spaces, design studios, a rooftop garden and sculpture park, and ground-level retail and restaurant space that face onto a public plaza. Secure zoned entry provides public building access from the street and controlled private access for corporate officers and VIP guests via a side entry.
The high-performance custom-designed façade is a direct response to the client’s desire for a corporate flagship that departs from the traditional look-and-feel of modern commercial buildings. Designed to meet Korea’s progressive energy codes, which are more rigorous than the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED® standards, the building’s skin incorporates a range of technologies that reduce heat gain while optimizing thermal comfort and maximizing natural daylight all year round. Each component of the gridded facade contributes to the structural fidelity of the building as much as its unique aesthetic, which evokes a sense of woven material or tapestry—a nod to the fashion industry.
This sense of movement and materiality is particularly evident within the first four floors of the building where seven custom eight-foot-diameter steel wheels open and close 35 foot-tall external panels to modulate daylight. The dynamic ethos of the fashion world is captured in these kinetic components, which can move, morph and change throughout the course of the day; each time the panels are engaged, the building’s presence is altered anew.
“The façade is intended to move like fabric does – changing positions and proportions, which is especially important at the city level of visual engagement with the building.” –Tom Kundig, FAIA, RIBA, Design Principal
A well facilitated design and engineering process—which included early prototyping and testing by the project team in the Pacific Northwest—combined with a close collaboration with the local architect, engineers and contractor in Seoul, contributed to this successful project whose urban site came with extremely tight contextual logistics.
Project Team: Tom Kundig, FAIA, RIBA, Design Principal; Dan Wilson, Principal; Jason Roseler, LEED AP Project Architect; Jerry Garcia, LEED AP, Architectural Staff; Angus MacGregor, RIBA, LEED AP BD+C, Architectural Staff; Evan Harlan, Architectural Staff; Debbie Kennedy, staff; Nathan Boyd, Architectural Staff
Phil Turner, Gizmo Design Engineering
Contractor: Shinsegae Engineering and Construction
Photos: Kyungsub Shin; Kevin Scott / Olson Kundig