The entire five-story Ferrari showroom in Cheongdam-dong, Seoul is wrapped in glass, its interior structure, and its expensive cars, on full display. Illuminated by powerful white lights, the building is an extraordinary sight at night.
The facade of Galleria Department Store in Apgujung-dong radiates with high-tech glass discs mounted on the building's concrete surface. Equipped with special LED-lights, the discs generate a mother-of-pearl effect during the day and a continuously changing pattern of colors in the evening.
These are examples of a trend called "Building Marketing" that employs unusual and eye-catching architecture to promote a company's brand, a trend which is catching on in Korea. Often competing for space and eyeballs with multi-story towers, these buildings rely on exquisite design to promote and enhance a brand image.
◆ Kangnam Emerging as a Center of Building Marketing
The seven-story Eui-hwa Building constructed late last year in Nonhyun-dong, Gangnam-gu has a unique beauty incorporating rectangular protruding windows of various sizes. The Hermes Dosan Park building in Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, is well-known for its copper silkscreen facade. Home to the Hermes fashion brand, the building also houses other upscale shops and a museum.
If you go to Samseong-dong, you won't be able to miss the unusual I-Park Tower which houses the headquarters of Hyundai Development Corporation. With its enormous wheel-shaped sculpture and striking diagonal lines, the building has become one of Seoul's most famous. It was designed by architect Daniel Libeskind, who shot to fame after receiving a commission to create the master plan for the reconstruction of New York's World Trade Center. "The building has become an area landmark thanks to its unique design, and it instills confidence in customers that Hyundai will build a good house just as it built a beautiful corporate headquarters," Hyundai Development said of its building.
◆ Buildings as Banners and Tourist Spots
While Seoul has a few unique buildings in and around the affluent Gangnam area, Tokyo is emerging as one of the world's hot spots for "brand buildings" as famous companies compete to design the city's most outstanding structures.
The 10-story Mikimoto Ginza 2 Store in the heart of Ginza is one of the Tokyo's most popular. Built in 2005, it draws fans from all over the world with its distinctive facade of unusually-shaped windows. Often likened to an enormous piece of Swiss cheese, it has become a famous photo spot for tourists. Mikimoto, a famous pearl and jewelry company, has also built upscale restaurants and spas to further its brand.
Lined with famous brand shops including Gucci, Dior and Louis Vuitton, a stretch of Tokyo from Aoyama to Omotesando has become must-see destination for visitors to Japan. Tokyo's Prada building, with its transparent exterior and bug-eyed window panels has emerged as one of the trend's leading examples. Now tech companies are getting into the game, too, with Sony and Apple contributing eye-catching buildings in Ginza.
"Top global brands are hiring famous architects to design exquisite buildings and use them as banners for brand promotion," confirmed a representative of the Korean branch of Mikimoto.
◆ Buildings as a Boost for the Economy
Korea may see several more unique buildings soon. "Many beautiful buildings have been built near each other in specific areas in some countries, and those areas then become tourism destinations," said Chun Eui-yung, a professor at Myongji University. "The Korean government should support the construction of such buildings here to stimulate the economy and nurture the tourism industry."