Shinsegae International

Seoul, South Korea / Olson Kundig Architects


In designing the fifteen-story headquarters for international luxury clothier Shinsegae International, the design team sought to create an iconic landmark in the heart of Gangnam-gu, one of Seoul’s largest districts. Completed in 2015, the commercial flagship unites more than 500 Shinsegae employees, who were previously spread between several buildings throughout the city. The program includes staff offices, meeting spaces, design studios, a rooftop garden, and ground-level retail space that faces onto a public plaza. 

The design concept for the new headquarters is derived from three themes: 1) fashion – evident by the moveable facade and the crafted aesthetic of its construction, which reflects the ever-changing nature of the fashion industry; 2) experience – the building can morph and change, inviting a sense of surprise and emotional engagement with the structure; and 3) the unexpected – the building defies the conformity of traditional glass towers by incorporating a fresh visual play of scale, hierarchy and proportion within the design of its highly efficient envelope.

Movement and materiality are particularly evident within the building’s first four floors where seven custom eight-foot-diameter steel wheels open and close a series of custom 35-foot-tall external panels that modulate natural daylight. The dynamic ethos of the fashion world is captured in these kinetic components: each time the panels are engaged in a new configuration.

The building is visually divided into two portions: the lower portion relates to the lively motion and interaction happening on the street, while the upper portion relates to the larger urban context of the Gangnam-gu neighborhood. The lower portion of the building relates to the pedestrian experience, and is all about revealing and display, via the large wheels and counterweights that move the metal panels. The atypical façade treatment of the upper portion of the building employs a

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