Commissioned by South Korea’s leading department store chain Hyundai Department Store to design two VIP lounges for affluent millennials, Spanish artist and designer Jaime Hayon tapped into his imagination delivering two boldly styled, exquisitely crafted, and immersive spaces that offer a unique hospitality experience. Located inside The Hyundai Seoul, the city’s largest department store, and Pangyo in Seongnam, one of Seoul’s satellite cities, the tailor-made lounges welcome young shoppers in their 20s and 30s into a sophisticated yet fun-packed wonderland. Underpinned by Hayon’s signature sense of playfulness, compositional dexterity and superior workmanship, the two lounges are swathed in organic and geometric forms, whimsical patterns, vibrant colours and seductive textures – an operatic symphony of competing yet complementing elements that Hayon fittingly describes as a “jungle of ideas”.
The two lounges are part of Hyundai Department Store’s VIP membership program for customers under 40, a demographic that has recently emerged as the new big spenders of luxury goods in South Korea, and whose avant-garde sensibility and fashion-conscious styling became the basis of Hayon’s design. “I feel close to the generation the lounges are meant for”, he explains. “They are open to mixing and variety - transgressive in a way and this feels close to home for me.” Indeed, Hayon is known for his experimentation, cheeky irreverence and child-like imagination which imbue all his projects, from artworks, to furniture, ceramics and glasswork, to interiors, with an impish sense of fantasy.
With a mission to offer visitors a surprising and memorable experience, Hayon approached the project as much as an interior designer as a scenographer, creating a series of theatrical spaces that unfold like the acts of an opera. Intrinsic in achieving such an immersive experience is Hayon’s practice of custom designing every element; from the furniture and lighting, to wall panelling, floor tiles, and ceilings, to door handles, mirrors and vases, his artistic fingerprint can be found throughout. Like the cast of actors in a theatrical production or the brushstrokes of a painting, every element, however small, plays its own important part, Hayon points out.
Although the two lounges share the same whimsical design language of voluptuous forms, sculptural highlights, graphic patterns and bold splashes of colours, they are distinct in concept and ambience.
Inspired by the area’s thriving IT industry - Seongnam is considered South Korea’s Silicon Valley - the Pangyo lounge mixes high-tech elements with traditional references, creating a fantasy land where past and present playfully merge. Brick lattice partitions are juxtaposed with gleaming metallic surfaces, ceramic elements are contrasted with fiberglass sculptures, and hexagonal floor tiles feature pixelated Pac Man-like patterns. A muted palette of grey, tan, beige and cream hues is punctuated by bright yellow, orange, terracotta and green splashes, with black and mauve accents completing a kooky yet cohesive colour scheme.
More subtle in tonality, the Hyundai Seoul lounge is entirely enveloped in organic forms, round shapes and sinuous lines. Together with a muted palette of pastel hues, and a combination of soft and lacquered surfaces, the sculpted interiors create a dreamlike environment that can’t help but draw you in. Doorways are a key element of Hayon’s design as they represent a portal to another world. From wide arches, to house-shaped French doors, the polka dot decorated double doors, every opening in both lounges is uniquely designed to make you feel like you’re entering into something special.
In line with the artist/designer’s penchant for incorporating fantastical creatures in his work (which can be found from decorative objects, to large-scale sculpture through to public installations), both spaces feature anthropomorphic animal sculptures, the largest of which double as lighting fittings. Prominently displayed on round pedestals, the vibrantly painted, cartoon-like mascots take on the MC’s role playfully welcoming members into Hayon’s Alice in Wonderland-like lounges with a clear message: leave all your troubles outside, open your mind, and have fun.