ACNE STUDIO, SEOUL 122 PROJECT
The narrow, winding side streets of Gangnam are home to some of the most exclusive shops in the South Korean capital. It is in this setting – a haven of peace in a fast-moving city – that we have built a new flagship store
for Swedish retail chain Acne Studios, where it will sell
its men’s and women’s ready-to-wear collections.
Acne Studios is a Stockholm-based fashion house
founded by Jonny Johansson, whose interest in
photography, art, architecture and contemporary
culture has shaped the company’s cool-but-functional
design identity. Its stores around the world are
characterised by a plain industrial aesthetic based on
uncompromising materials such as metal and concrete
under no-nonsense fluorescent lighting.
Seoul has a highly distinctive character. The large
number of western brands to which it is home –
powerful brands, with strong identities – could easily
have undermined its individuality, but this does not
seem to have happened. As a visitor, my impression
is that western brands and Korean urban culture have
given something to one another; that they have cross-fertilised to exciting effect. I will try to describe my
approach to the design of the building.
Swedish culture prizes modesty and discretion. In
contrast, Acne Studios’ designs are forceful and exude
attitude. Our building reflects this contrast. Viewed
from the outside, it is a restrained, rather elegant
lightbox: translucent and ghostly but, in essence, plain
and simple. Appearances, though, can be deceptive. As
soon as you enter, you realise that while it may only
be a box, it is a box concealing a heavy, brooding,
The building is a rectangular structure on two floors,
both of rough concrete, with four pairs of concrete
columns holding up the roof and the upper floor.
Around one of these columns winds a floating
concrete staircase. Once upstairs, you realise that there
is something about this building that is a little strange.
As you look down and about, you notice that the
rough, lumpen, concrete structure is entirely separate
from the translucent walls that enclose it.
The interior structure sits inside its elegant box
as if in a display case. There is no decoration. The
concrete bears the imprint of rough timber such as
that used to make boardwalks to the beach in the
The translucent, ghostly lightbox of the exterior looks plain, but the
open door beckons to a ‘heavy, brooding, concrete monster’ within