Seoul Story 03: AMORE Sulwhasoo

“The journey is a constant contradiction between two counterparts: enclosed to open, dark to light, delicate to massive,” – Neri & Hu

During my trip to Seoul, there were two particularly significant contemporary architectural projects that were on top of my list: AMORE Sulwhasoo by Neri & Hu, and Dongdaemun Design Plaza by Zaha Hadid Architects.

AMORE Sulwhasoo is the new flagship store of leading Korean skincare giant, Sulwhasoo, whose products are all based on traditional Korean herbal medicines such as ginseng, Chinese Peony, red pine and East Indian Lotus to name a few.  The brand’s holistic philosophy and long-standing historical heritage as the leading expert in ginseng research inspire Neri & Hu to create an architectural interior space that reflects this mystical and historical quality for the contemporary era.

With the literal and mythological meaning of ‘The Lantern’ as their conceptual starting point, Heri & Hu takes us on a memorable multi-sensory experience that continues to unfold during a journey through the store. 

The Lantern is highly significant in Asian culture both literally and mythologically.  It leads you through the dark, it is a guiding light to show you the way, it also indicates the beginning and the end of a journey.  These ephemeral qualities have been translated through the architectural language via the continuous three-dimensional brass lattice from the exterior courtyard into the interior shop floors, constantly being contrasted with massive solid cast concrete volumes.

I particularly love how the delicate brass three dimensional lattice also doubles up as product displays, making the journey from floor to floor felt mysterious and full of surprises waiting to be discovered.  They rest upon a solid ground of wide timber floor boards that occasionally rises up to form wooden counters with inserted solid stone blocks, on top of which Sulwhasoo products are displayed as precious objects. While it is primarily a guiding mechanism, the lantern structure is also a source of light—hanging within it are custom light fixtures that turn the structure into the main feature to frame and highlight the products on display. 

In creating a series of voids and openings in the building, visitors fully experience the structure as it moves through the space and envelops the different programs. Mirror volumes are inserted into a wooden landscape to reflect and amplify the seemingly endless structure.

The result?  Well, the whole space exudes a sense of tranquillity perfect for spa relaxation. Needless to say it is one of the most delicate, dramatic and paradoxical architectural gem in the world! 

PHOTOGRAPHER: May Naruemannalinee & Nanravin Naruemannalinee

PHOTO EDITOR: Julia Jevzikova

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