Gwanggyo, Korea – Shopping malls and department stores are beginning to shed their similarities to casinos, spaces so singularly driven by consumerism they’re often all but closed off to their environs. With Galleria Gwanggyo, the South Korean department store’s sixth branch, OMA not only created new vantage points from which to experience the city, but did so with a public loop that offers spaces for cultural exhibitions and performances. Chris van Duijn, OMA’s partner in charge of Galleria, explains more about how the project challenges traditional retail.
How did you design Galleria to accommodate different events?
CHRIS VAN DUIJN: As our main goal was to accommodate retail in a building that would serve a bigger purpose, all commercial areas are strategically framed by flexible spaces. Furthermore, we incorporated areas precisely designated for cultural events. The upper floors house cinemas, special club spaces and a cultural centre. On level 12, the Boulevard, there is a VIP and club lounge and the culture centre, which includes the Academy, a space that can host masterclasses, for instance, and video booths. At the top level, the rooftop garden functions as a viewing spot and a recreational and cultural zone.
But the most distinctive feature of Galleria is the public loop, whose role is far beyond a circulation space. Designed to bring people directly from the street into the upper levels, its route encircling the building accommodates several pop-up spaces, café areas and an auditorium-like staircase intended for smaller and informal events. It not only provides a shop-in-shop air but also enhances the social aspect of shopping.
Do you think it’s important for consumers to have a connection with the outdoors while shopping?
A conversation about the current state of retail inevitably brings us to how important context is. During our talks with Galleria about their ‘next level department store’ in South Korea, where traditional retail is still a successful model, we were at the same time working with long-lasting European department stores like KaDeWe, Galleries Lafayette and Selfridges on how to reinvent themselves. This shows that we are beyond the thesis that shopping is part of our daily social life and that this evolution is contextual. And, consequently, the architectural response to that is sensitive to the context as well.
Whether the connection with the outdoors will become a vital feature in retail is not yet known, but stronger ties with urban context is inevitable
For Galleria, establishing a relationship between the building and the outdoors resulted from an analysis of Gwanggyo and the goal we wanted to achieve there. As the city lacked a natural point of gravity, we wanted to anchor it, and to do so we could not produce a classical opaque cube-shaped department store. Our proposal had to factually relate to the surroundings, in order to become the new centre of the town and for residents to want to come and spend time there. That is the goal of the loop that travels along the façade, sometimes even exiting it. It’s a cantilevered transparent walkway from which to overlook Gwanggyo.
Whether the connection with the outdoors will become a vital feature in retail is not yet known, but stronger ties with urban context – as shopping becomes less standard and more bespoke – is inevitable. And, needless to say, sustainability will gain even more terrain.