07 Sep 2021 • Retail
The Hyundai Department Store introduces play and relaxation to attract a younger crowd
In Seoul, Betwin Space sets the stage for a millennial-and-Gen Z-centric lifestyle platform.
Themed differently from the building’s other levels, the Hyundai Department Store’s second basement floor targets millennials and Gen Z, two groups that are merged as one in South Korea under the umbrella known as the ‘MZ Generation’. Despite its subterranean location, this is the building’s first entry point via Yeouido Station and the underground parking lot, and the one through which the largest number of department store visitors flow.
After passing through the underground gate, visitors arrive at what the designers call the ‘iconic square’, a bold black-and-white area that can function as a pop-up brand space, event space, art gallery, waiting or meeting room, or rest area. Continuing the gallery feel, the East zone is themed as an orderly yet sculptural ‘art district’. Designed to be more playful, the West zone has a free-flowing, casual atmosphere and – as hinted by the inclusion of rest spaces – is meant to be explored at a leisurely pace.
Eschewing the luxury design codes attributed to many high-end department stores, Betwin Space focused on terms like ‘play’, ‘relax’, ‘culture’ and ‘inspire’ throughout the space. Other overhauls of tropes common to the typology include creating different lighting moods for different sections (department stores are often brightly illuminated throughout) and ensuring the floor plan wasn’t overrun with product displays.
Some spaces, particularly those in the West zone, could be mistaken for trade-fair stands – maybe it’s the exposed industrial ceiling? – calling to mind a framework so formulaic that it’s hard to see the playfulness the designers intended to introduce. That’s not to say the interiors are dull. Fresh material clashes, a striking welcome space and enough diversity to beg exploration all introduce intrigue into the scheme. But if you’re going to push the department store envelope, we’d certainly like to see how far the borders can go.