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Architect Frank Gehry Designs a Sculptural Flagship for Louis Vuitton in Seoul

Jane Keltner de Valle

We wanted a lantern on the street,” Frank Gehry says of the new Seoul flagship he designed for Louis Vuitton. “Something open and inviting.” Perched atop the tony Cheongdam-dong ward in the Gangnam shopping district, with the Bukhansan mountains as a backdrop, the five-story beacon of light is the first retail space that the Pritzker Prize winner has completed since the early days of his career—and his first for the French luxury brand. Of course, the two are familiar friends following their collaboration on the Fondation Louis Vuitton, unveiled in Paris in 2014.

Frank Gehry at Louis Vuitton’s new Seoul flagship, which he designed in collaboration with Peter Marino.
Photo: Ki-Yong Nam

With curved glass panels that stretch up toward the sky like sails, the Seoul boutique is both an evolution of the Paris building and a reflection of the architect’s deep appreciation for Asian culture. Gehry, who has two half-Korean granddaughters, found inspiration for the store in the swooping movements of the traditional Dongnae Hakchum crane dance. “I’m always looking for ways to create feeling with three-dimensional materials,” he notes. “I love dance because it expresses movement as sculpture.”

The entry.
Photo: Ki-Yong Nam

The dramatic form reveals pared-back, Miesian interiors, which were conceived by another AD100 talent, architect Peter Marino, who has dreamed up hundreds of Vuitton stores around the world. It proved to be a blockbuster union. “I love the guy,” says Gehry. “It’s interesting—I guess he’s got a big ego and I’ve got a big ego. And yet we did not clash.” A vast triple-height entrance clad in the same white Turkish limestone as the façade immediately connects interior and exterior, while swings by the Campana Brothers for Vuitton’s Objets Nomades collection hang overhead, greeting visitors. Elsewhere, intimate lounge spaces feature groovy 1960s and ’70s pieces by the likes of Pierre Paulin and Carlo Scarpa. And a concrete staircase doubles as a vertical gallery, with bright color-field paintings by many of the contemporary artists whose work Marino collects. Those steps lead to a top-floor gallery of rotating exhibitions (currently Alberto Giacometti works on loan from the foundation). “It’s meant to be a fun, happy experience,” says Marino. “I know architects don’t use the word happy a lot, but I do. I think Frank’s architecture is very joyful—and I like that.”

Tour the Spectacular New Louis Vuitton Store in Seoul

An arrangement of Objets Nomades furnishings by Raw Edges and India Mahdavi beckons by the front window.
Photo: Ki-Yong Nam
Objets Nomades Cocoon by Fernando and Humberto Campana.
Photo: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton
Objets Nomades Concertina shade by Raw Edges.
Photo: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton
A floral installation on the main floor.
Photo: Ki-Yong Nam
The entry.
Photo: Ki-Yong Nam
An artwork by Anselm Reyle (right) is displayed on the concrete staircase.
Photo: Ki-Yong Nam
Monogrammed suitcase.
Photo: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton
Objets Nomades Spiral Lamp GM by Atelier Oï.
Photo: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton
An interior terrace.
Photo: Ki-Yong Nam
Frank Gehry at Louis Vuitton’s new Seoul flagship, which he designed in collaboration with Peter Marino.
Photo: Ki-Yong Nam
Gehry’s glass panels crown the façade.
Photo: Ki-Yong Nam
The building aglow at night.
Photo: Ki-Yong Nam
Soft Trunk.
Photo: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton
Objets Nomades Talisman tray by India Mahdavi.
Photo: Courtesy of Louis Vuitton
Another view of Gehry’s dramatic curved-glass façade panels.
Photo: Ki-Yong Nam

The ambitious project underscores Vuitton’s deep commitment to design, from fashion to furniture to art to architecture. Perhaps the best interplay of these media can be found on the interior terraces, all curved glass and sloping steel columns. There is no merchandise—just chic seating curated by Marino and perfect city views over the treetops. In an age of online shopping—rather, online everything—the space makes a convincing argument for retail IRL.

“The pendulum is swinging against culture and into high technology,” Marino remarks. “Do you really think a digital museum can replace an afternoon at The Frick? It doesn’t work for me. I hope people can visually, tactically, and sensually appreciate a Louis Vuitton store.”

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest