Outside the matchbox...

31 Oct 2011

DP Architects oversee the reinstatement of Myeong-dong’s fashion jewel

Noon Square is located at the gateway to one of Seoul’s prime retail districts, Myeong-dong in Chung-gu. The project for retrofitting of the mall to rejuvenate the exterior and revitalise the interior housing for existing and new brands faced divergent design goals: to transform the building into a contemporary gateway for the shopping community; and to weave this building intelligently into the region’s existing, dated fabric.

Although popular with the trendy crowd, the prevailing architecture in Myeong-dong stands in stark contrast to the contemporary fashion carried in its shops. Small-scale shops and medium-sized shopping centres line the almost 1 km main pedestrian thoroughfare. Despite its historical status as a hub for arts, politics and business, Myeongdong’s urban fabric mainly consists of a mixture of small and medium-sized box-like structures, mostly built in the 1970s and 80s when South Korea’s economy started developing rapidly. The juxtaposition of local street carts selling their wares against international brand outlets lends itself to a unique street experience.

The project’s programme required retaining the existing structure to avoid demolition costs. In following, design work focused on the facade and the carving of an internal atrium to produce a new network of internal and external connectivity. The implementation of South Korea’s first exterior escalator synthesised horizontal pedestrian footfall on the sidewalk with vertical movement into the mall. Elements of the façade and additions including this escalator are worked proportionally into the existing contextual grid of surrounding buildings.

Liken that of traditional street shopping, the escalator provides direct street level access to individual floors enhancing the building porosity. Design decisions were predicated upon the branding for ‘noon’ as translated in Korean: snow crystal. The façade’s grid, otherwise stringently in tune with the contextual grid, is broken at one end of the mall to reveal an amorphous, crystalline structure — a crucial element that inserts the unfamiliar into the familiar shopping mall typology to produce a distinctive example of retail architecture.

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