SEOUL – ‘Brands need to be on show in other ways than through their products,’ says Rossana Hu. Her office, Neri&Hu, puts those words into practice with its flagship interior for premium South Korean beauty brand Sulwhasoo. For the project – which incorporates two spas, retail areas and more – the designers set out to create a spatial odyssey based on the concept of a lantern, a powerful symbol of travel, arrival and enlightenment in Korean culture. ‘Space is one of the best ways for consumers to experience sensory excitement,’ says Hu.

The flagship occupies an impressive five-storey building by local architect Iroje in Seoul’s Gangnam district. Unifying the 1,949-m2 interior, lantern-inspired openwork structures featuring rods the colour of brass define the space, their delicate see-through forms guiding visitors through the various functions and making a strong visual statement from the street, thanks to large windows in the façade.

The structures are made from stainless-steel rods with a PVD coating, which were welded together off site in modular sections. In all, rods used in the store cover a length of 115,744 m. The lattices sculpt the space and connect the different levels, from the basement, where a luxurious spa offers Korean herbal treatments, to the rooftop, with its outdoor lounges articulated by the trellis-like surrounds. In between, the ground floor houses a seasonal product display and brand showcase – which includes an open-air terrace, its blurry boundaries formed by the lattices – while the main retail area is on the first floor. The second floor is devoted to lounges and a VIP room, and a second spa is located on the third floor.

As well as unifying the space and connecting indoors and outdoors, the brass-finished structures accommodate lighting sources, accessories and displays. Adding warmth to the interior, natural materials like wood, stone and brick are used in differing combinations in each part of the emporium. In the midst of the glowing grids, the products, showcased on wooden plinths, appear as precious objects. In the words of Hu’s partner, Lyndon Neri, the store is ‘a spatial journey leading the customer to explore all the dimensions of beauty, inside and out; the building as a lantern illuminates both metaphorically and literally, as a beacon of light for the city and as a symbol of excellence in beauty’.

Photos Pedro Pegenaute