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Despite being a store-within-a-store in a trend-friendly design neighborhood, Aesop requested its Hannam store in Seoul uphold their signature palette of materials with architectural distinction and restraint. In conceptualizing the new Hannam store, Suh Architects began thinking about an era of modern art that was about simple forms of single materials. We were inspired by the sculptures of Imi Knoebel and Donald Judd on a recent visit to the Dia Beacon in NY. We eventually proposed a scheme of crisp solid metal volumes defined by a curve.

Central to the store, a steel vessel for Aesop’s skincare bottles bears not only the weight of the main counter but the store’s identity. This ‘perched’ smooth mass is crafted from 3mm rolled steel whose shade was carefully coordinated with the indigenous Korean quartz and felts selected. Having tested several radii in 1:1 mockups, we arrived at a proportion and design that captured a monolithic, solid language. Horizontal shelving and the embedded sink all reinforce a curved volume that is repeated throughout the interior. The same gunmetal grey quietly hangs from the simple light boxes above.

This design could not have been executed successfully without the superior craftsmanship minimal interiors demand. The rounded hand-crafted steel and stone casework articulate an approach towards industrial materials that expresses an intimate scale and invites human touch. A painstaking process of meticulous metal folding was developed in instances where steel shelving needed to be suspended from the rental space. With the only added elements of clear glass, greenery, an antique lamp and chair, the monochromatic 46 m2 room orders, highlights, and invites the visitor to engage Aesop’s offerings.

Design: Suh Architects
Project Design: Eulho Suh, KyungEn Kim
Project Team: Hwayoung Jung, Yoojin Han, Gayoung Yoon
Photography: Jongkeun Lee / Guru Visual, Inc.

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