Noon Square is located at the gateway to one of Seoul’s prime retail districts, Myeong-dong in Jung-gu. This project for the retrofitting of a mall faced divergent design goals: to transform the existing building into a contemporary gateway for the shopping community; and to weave this building intelligently into the region’s dated fabric. Myeong-dong is a well-known shopping region, a magnet for young crowds, office workers and students from nearby Seoul University. The region’s architecture, however, stands in contrast to the contemporary fashion of its shops and their users as the retail scene has been tied to nondescript buildings left unchanged since the 60s and 70s.
The nine-storey shopping mall is located on a prominent site within this commercial district, initially constructed as a single-tenant department store in 1970 and first renovated in 2001 as a commercial complex. Despite building alterations, the architecture remained introverted and unremarkable, lacking identity and connectivity to the city fabric. This project was aimed at activating the site and its urban environs.
Noon Square’s programme required retaining the original structure. In following, design work focused on the facade and the carving of internal spaces to produce new networks of connectivity. Internally, the insertion of an atrium has established new visual linkages and a strengthened presence for all retail units. Externally, the implementation of South Korea’s first exterior escalator has synthesised horizontal pedestrian footfall on the sidewalk with vertical movement into the mall, thereby connecting the mall’s upper levels directly with the street. Extrusions within the façade’s ‘tartan’ grid make prominent a series of brand-name retailers and advertisements, adding texture to the elevation and reflecting the vibrancy of the site’s immediate surroundings.
Design decisions were predicated upon the branding for ‘noon’ as translated in Korean: snow crystal. The façade’s grid, otherwise stringently in tune with the contextual grid, is transformed at one end of the mall to reveal a crystalline structure, a crucial identifying element providing the mall with a pronounced legibility within Myeong-dong. The combination of these functional and formal strategies has produced a distinctive and accessible example of retail architecture.