OMA’s completed Galleria department store in South Korea certainly stands out

Uncut Rems

OMA’s completed Galleria department store in South Korea certainly stands out

OMA’s new Galleria mall in Gwanggyo combines rough textures, pixelation, glass tunnels, and other disparate facade elements. (Hong Sung Jun /Courtesy OMA)

Rotterdam-based Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) has completed the newest outpost for upscale South Korean department store chain Galleria, in the fast-growing planned city of Gwanggyo. The Gwanggyo location, just south of Seoul, is the sixth and largest store overall for the venerable, nearly 50-year-old luxury retailer, and its first new location in a decade. Although other Galleria stores are distinctive from a design standpoint, this one takes the proverbial cake.

Set against a backdrop of residential high-rises, the building takes the form of a monolithic slab of granite with a pixilated mosaic facade that’s meant to “evoke the nature of” the neighboring Suwon Gwanggyo Lake Park, per OMA. Protruding prism-like from the hulking structure is a meandering, multifaceted glass passageway, complete with a “series of cascading terraces,” that wraps itself around the entirety of the eight-story building twice. Beginning on the ground floor and concluding at an outdoor rooftop garden, the circuitous corridor serves as a public route where well-heeled shoppers—and also the general public—can pause and take in arts- and leisure-minded activities including exhibitions and live performances.

A bizarre-looking building set against a cluster of high-rises in South Korea.
The newest and largest outpost of luxury emporium Galleria was designed to serve as the cultural and architectural focal point of the new city of Gwanggyo. (Hong Sung Jun/Courtesy OMA)
A glass walkway protruding from a stone building in South Korea
Gwanggyo Galleria eschews the typically window-less format of department stores where natural daylight often distracts shoppers. (Hong Sung Jun/Courtesy OMA)

“With a public loop deliberately designed for cultural offerings, Galleria in Gwanggyo is a place where visitors engage with architecture and culture as they shop,” said OMA partner Chris van Duijn in a statement. “They leave with a unique retail experience blended with pleasant surprises after each visit.”

At first glance, this wildly idiosyncratic department store resembles a glistening, Paul Bunyan-sized mineral stone. Some critics, however, are reminded of other things:

In total, the rubberneck-inducing department store, which OMA envisioned as a “a natural point of gravity for public life in Gwanggyo,” encompasses roughly 1.6 million square feet including a sizable, multi-level subterranean space complete with a market hall. The building’s upper floors are home to a movie theater, lounges, restaurants, and other amenities.

an interior glass-enclosed walkway in a department store
Winding glass-enclosed passageways cut into the building’s facade provide an array of cultural programming. (Hong Sung Jun/Courtesy OMA)
the exterior of a wild-looking department store in South Korea
Imposing as it is eye-catching, the Gwanggyo Galleria building is eight stories tall and includes multiple basement levels. (Hong Sung Jun/Courtesy OMA)

According to the English-language daily The Korea Times, the Gwanggyo branch of Galleria was slated to open to the public in late February but was delayed to concerns over the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Galleria, which is akin to Neiman Marcus or Nordstrom but perhaps a touch ritzier at some locations, is owned by South Korean mega-conglomerate Hanwha.