Conran and Partners has completed a new flagship store for British lifestyle brand The Conran Shop in Seoul
Words by Emily Martin
All Images: Woo Jin Park
Architecture and design practice Conran and Partners has completed a new flagship store for British lifestyle brand The Conran Shop in Seoul’s trendy Gangnam district. Opened in November last year, it is the brand’s first in South Korea and forms part of a Lotte department store. Housed over two floors of a former car park in an annex adjacent to the main department building, the space offers the positive attributes of large structure spans and a clear grid, but with the challenge of a lower ceiling than a typical new-build retail site, enabling Conran and Partners to incorporate some unique features. The result is a retail environment far removed from being simply a conventional shop.
‘We wanted to create what is, effectively, a contemporary gallery space,’ explains Simon Kincaid, partner, Conran and Partners. ‘This allows The Conran Shop to curate its products and encourages customers to engage with those products in an atmospheric, dramatic and stimulating retail environment. The contrast between the two floors adds a sense of theatre and surprise to the experience, as well as giving variation and depth to the product merchandising.’
Working closely with The Conran Shop’s in-house creative team, Conran and Partners has delivered an innovative, high-impact lifestyle-led retail environment, for a store that specialises in furniture and homeware and is part of a vibrant retail culture within this part of the city.
A chair wall on the first floor features dark terrazzo and a blackened frame, and holds a display of 54 iconic products
Conran and Partners’ design approach has opened up the perimeter to allow maximum light into the store, as well as to optimise views both in and out of the space. Switchback escalators in the centre of the store act as a dramatic architectural feature and encourage circulation between the two floors.The design adopts a strong graphic-led approach, and showcases all aspects of The Conran Shop’s iconic product range, while enhancing Lotte’s wider home-furnishing offer.
The store has two distinctive identities to recognise the key elements of the retail journey and customer experience. The ground floor space – where most customers enter – is clean and light, combining concrete, steel and glass elements alongside fully exposed services to create a bold ‘lab’ feel. Blending the design aesthetics of a factory, warehouse, gallery and tech lab provides a crisp and bright backdrop for the display of a wide range of merchandise. Customers are met by a product gallery featuring white rectilinear display plinths located on the central axis. Above this ‘design catwalk’ is a white mesh ceiling incorporating both linear and spot lighting. The focal point of the space is the cast concrete sales desk, while the remaining ground floor areas are presented as a grid of plinths, tray-tables and white trolleys. The floor also incorporates a prominently positioned cafe, featuring a design consistent with the minimal ‘lab’ aesthetic, but with the added materials of cast concrete, perforated steel, and timber furniture, such as Carl Hansen & Son seating.
In contrast, the first floor – where high-quality residential furniture products are displayed – presents customers with a richly atmospheric, relaxed feel. The dark finish used for the ceiling introduces a low eyeline, with timber floors softening the acoustics, warming the ambience, and adding a more domestic feel to the space. A chair wall, a feature common to The Conran Shops, mixes dark terrazzo with a blackened frame and incorporates a display of 54 iconic chairs. A kitchen and dining area also sits on this floor, designed to be used as an event space. This floor allows for what Kincaid describes as ‘smaller experiential pockets’ to also feature. ‘For example,’ he says, ‘a black-on-black-on-black lighting room, which offers customers an immersive environment with solid portal entrances and light-refracting glass walls in which the lighting products pop like jewels in the night. We have also created VIP rooms with walnut-panelled walls and a whisky display referencing the founder’s favourite tipple. This is similar to the ambience created by a members’ club or private dining room spaces, where customers can relax, select and specify the fabrics and finishes of their new furnishings.’
The ceiling incorporates both linear and spot lighting
The circulation core, in the vibrant Conran-brand blue, acts as a navigational marker for customer orientation and unites the two floors. This core is encased with vertical glazing that – uplit – creates an appealing, soft focus and a confidently modern aesthetic. Glass is also used across both floors to add texture, while obscuring views and defining key spaces. The blue colouring is also used subtly throughout to reinforce brand identity, and is complemented by the colourful graphic murals that also feature on each floor.
‘The store design creates opportunities to enjoy the experience of browsing products as much as the pleasure of purchasing them,’ adds Kincaid. ‘This flagship store will, I believe, help to establish the brand as a key destination for fashion-led design customers.’
Conran and Partners
The Conran Shop
2,300 sq m
Carl Hansen & Son