Re-Anchoring in Retail

Using the element of water as its cue, the design team at ID & Design International creates a dazzling department store in the Gwanbok Harbor Front District of Busan, South Korea -- one of the country's fastest growing fashion and retail destinations.

by Robert Nieminen


Despite the fact that retail therapy remains America’s most popular remedy for the stresses of life, there are a lot of frazzled shoppers out there in need of a good dose of credit card rehab. With the U.S. economy still sluggish—and retail having been hit hardest—it’s no wonder that design firms have broadened their horizons and taken on work overseas to offset the downturn.

Fortunately, the global recession hasn’t been felt in Asia as profoundly as it has here in the States or in Europe, opening the door to expansive, challenging retail projects (among others) for adventurous firms. Such was the case with Ft. Lauderdale-based ID & Design International (IDDI), which recently completed the first of a massive, three-phase retail project for its longstanding client, Lotte Shopping Co., in the Gwanbok Harbor Front District of Busan, South Korea.

“Domestically, everyone has been so conservative. Overseas, we’re still seeing a pretty aggressive market in terms of retail,” notes Sherif Ayad, president and creative director at IDDI. In addition to the economic disparities, the cultural differences are stark as well, but perhaps not in the way you would imagine. Ayad finds that consumers in Asia are a lot more jaded than their American counterparts, which may come as somewhat of a surprise here in the U.S., given our penchant for the next biggest thing—be it a new blockbuster movie, the latest gadget from Apple or a mega-mall. But this hasn’t always been the case, he says.

“It’s changed [in Asia] in the last 10, 15, 20 years in that it used to be that anything you did over there was a big hit,” Ayad explains. “Now they’re more demanding, and every project has to get better and better—and bigger.” He also notes that shoppers in South Korea are younger, and because department stores tend to be more expensive than they are here, the consumer has a much higher expectation in terms of the quality of materials and the quality of the design that go into a project. “It’s become a very tough market,” he admits.

With this new reality in mind, IDDI developed a strategy geared primarily around a fashion-forward shopping experience for the younger, affluent urban consumer, and established the Lotte Gwangbok Department Store as a new retail icon in the Korean market—as well as a prominent podium for a 150-story tower scheduled to open in 2012. As an anchor to the revitalization of the Busan Port District—which already includes an underground subway system and surrounding upscale consumer market—one of the major challenges of the multi-phase project was to develop a highly strategic plan for the future flow of traffic around and through the vertical space.

Consisting of 650,000 square feet across 11 floors of retail space, the design team utilized the atrium as a means of connectivity for both branding and visual interest. “Having an atrium to tie the whole store experience together becomes the Lotte identity, the Lotte signature, which was the critical piece,” says Hayan, particularly when there are hundreds of other brands on display throughout each department that could easily overshadow the client’s own brand identity.

“The strategy of the layout of the departments on the various levels was out of convenience,” he explains. “We located the younger departments at the bottom and destination departments at the top, which worked out well.”

Inspired by the fluid energy of water that surrounds the site, the design team created a contemporary central atrium of kinetic architectural forms in a twisting motion that frame a central sculpture consisting of 10,000 aluminum, fish-like shapes spiraling upwards through all levels of the project. “The sculpture in the atrium is a unique piece. It’s made of 10,000 aluminum simplified fish forms, but is very lightweight,” notes Ayan. “They’re suspended from the ceiling, so they all tend to flow from the natural movement of the air conditioning. Everything moves and has a motion about it—it sparkles. When you’re looking up at the atrium, it just kind of glows.”

The main level atrium flooring features a water jet cut stone pattern suggestive of water ripples and establishes a memorable visual point at the heart of the store. Ceilings on every level are strategically designed to be unique signatures, controlling circulation and reinforcing a sense of energy. The main floor (featuring cosmetics and imported designer brands) is embellished by an illuminated colonnade and beaded chandeliers in liquid formations drawing attention to the atrium at the core of the experience.

“A lot of the design was inspired by the whole territory of water,” explains Ayad. “The site is very unique and comes right up to the waterfront. Inspiration really did come from the water around the property, both in the atrium as well as on every floor in an abstract, indirect way—whether it be the sparkles underwater, sparkles above water, the wave formations, the fish, or the water jet marble on the first floor with the water ripples at the bottom of the atrium.”

This compilation of key design elements and visual displays on levels two through 10, mixed with unique fashion venues, is strategically oriented to establish Lotte as a “new retail icon.” The initial design intent of movement, fluid connectivity and a fashion-forward urban environment is expressed consistently at every level throughout the consumer experience, meaning that jaded South Korean shoppers should find plenty to keep their attention for years to come.


back to top

lotte shopping co., ltd.
1 Sogong-dong
Jung-gu, Seoul, Korea

ID & Design International
3020 NE 32nd Ave
Suite 117
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33308
(954) 566-2828

Sherif Ayad, president and creative director
Jae Kyung Kim, project manager/sr. designer
Olfat Ayad, sr. designer
Brent Cartwright, sr. designer
Mervet Ayad, FF&E/designer
Wendy Wright, designer
Roberto Mercado, rendering
Jaime Guillen, technical director
Carlos Granada, technical coordinator
Jairo Castaneda, design production
Brian Saponaro, design production
Diana Santiago, production
Claudia Frias, production
Lauren Adams, lighting coordinator/production
Heather Feitz, lighting


client representative
Mr. Kil Young Park, executive director of design

ID & Design International— Jamie Guillen