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.
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 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
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