Retail therapy: projects that transformed retail design into an immersive experience
by Sunena V MajuDec 15, 2022
•make your fridays matter with a well-read weekend
by Sunena V MajuPublished on : Oct 19, 2022
Finding a home in the 'Brooklyn of Seoul', PAN AM has opened its new flagship store in the bustling neighbourhood of Seongsu-dong in South Korea. Pan American World Airways, known as PAN AM, held an important identity as an iconic American airline brand. However, recently, fashion retailer SJ Group reintroduced 'onetime airline' PAN AM as a lifestyle brand in South Korea with its first store in the Shinsegae Starfield Coex Mall. Following the popularity it gained, the brand has now opened another store, reinventing the historic alleys of the industrial area. Conceived by South Korean architects NiiiZ DESIGN LAB, the new store occupies an old factory which used to manufacture tapes.
Reflecting on the area's industrial character and the brand’s signature blue and white colours, the new space takes shapes in rudimentary finishes of the past and the performance of modern materials. Presenting the design concept reinterpreted for the regional characteristics of Seongsu-dong, the architects aimed to keep the past and present in harmony. In an old four-storey concrete structure, the flagship store functions on the ground floor. With a blue circular entryway that juts from the front facade, the new place truly captures the attention of the passersby. This tunnel-like entrance renders a feeling of transitioning from a normal street to a new realm of experience. "This entire process of entering the space through the transitional space is meant to represent the metaphor of moving from ordinary reality (outside) to extraordinary space (inside)," mention the designers in an official release.
Breaking the direct physical connection to the interiors, the circular entryway opens to a cylindrical passage that leads to the interiors of the store. In the open plan layout of the floor, the spaces are separated with cubicles in steel and translucent coverings. While the concept mentions a union between the past and the present, the interior design elevates to a futuristic sci-fi theme from the reality of the vibrant street. Amid the layers of white lights, zinc structures, glass partitions and singularity of concrete architecture, the retail design imparts an unrealistic perception of the space. Adding to this experiential retail are the glass floors in a grid layout.
Many fashion brands such as Balenciaga’s New Bond Street store and Hender Scheme’s new showroom in Tokyo have recently explored retail store design in exposed concrete and raw visuals. However, the exclusivity of this design in the PAN AM store comes from the presence of their statement blue colour. In the form of spheres, cylinders and fixture detailings, the blue stands ground amid the over powering greys of concrete.
"Our client, who had already opened the LCDC flagship store in Seongsu-dong, asked us to reflect the area's regional characteristics as well as the perspective of the current era, leaving the existing image of PAN AM behind, the retro and old airline that anyone is familiar with, just like in the movie Catch me if you can. In accordance with our client's request, we focused on the fact that the factory which used to manufacture tapes is now transformed into a new place, keeping the original space, through all the changes in time and the pandemic, and came up with the design concept of 'borderline of the ordinary and extraordinary'," share the designers.
In 310 sqm retail space the flagship store accommodates five display zones in its central area, spread on either side of the luggage-belt-like seating, bar counter, fitting rooms and storage. The display zones breathe in the modernity of zinc pipes, polycarbonate and glass, and breathe out the polished minimalism of industrial design. The bar counter at the end of the store adopts the design of a ticket counter at the airport. In a unique approach by the designers, the significant source of lighting is from the floor and not the ceiling or walls. The lighting design accompanied by the flooring design helps in keeping alive the imprints of the old factory existing in the form of the sticky residue of tapes on the floor. These residues are covered with tempered glass flooring to balance the design concepts and functionality.
Amid the "borderline of the ordinary and extraordinary", the PAN AM flagship store presents the new face of retail experience that encompasses the fashion world now. Within a minimal but impactful setting, the lifestyle products of the airline brand elevate from a necessity to an identity entailed by the signature of the brand. However, when retail stores move from space to display products to an artistic space that has a story and identity of its own, are the consumers buying the product or the experience?
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