It is fitting that the new headquarters for Obzee, a company that owns several fashion labels, is so influenced by the clothes designed within. Located on an urban infill site in Seoul, Korea, the building is an eight-story tower wrapped in its own piece of clothing: a pleated and perforated metal skin. The gathers and drape of the skin are heavily influenced by the architects' research into tailoring, down to the diamond-shaped perforations that resemble cutouts from a dress pattern and a supporting structure that is reminiscent in both form and principle to a crinoline. This support structure is anchored to a glass curtain wall that encloses the concrete structure, which retains a diamond pattern in the system of beams that support ascending floors. The fluidity of the skin belies the rectilinear form of the building underneath, a contrast that intrigued the jury. Julie Snow commented, “The interesting thing about the box itself is how it's structured, and the fact that the pleated exterior fabric works against those forms. That's probably the strength of the project—instead of it taking this sort of formal shaping, it took a structural shaping.” Juror Thomas Phifer echoed her sentiment: “The way the volume finally behind all of these elaborate screens and structures is simple and doesn't respond to the different characteristics makes the skin object like and special, and I think it actually makes it stronger.”
The interior program of the building combines spaces in an attempt to get the most out of a small floorplate. A double-height lobby combines the entry and the company's showplace: a theater and runway for fashion shows. Double-height atria on the upper floors, creating overlooks from one studio space (and clothing brand) into another, facilitate communication and maximize light. The top floor has clean-lined executive offices and space for parties and events. The geometry of the beams and the skin seen through windows serve as the main foci in an otherwise clean and open interior. This effect resonated with Snow, who said, “The skin and the volume and the restraint of this volume is very powerful.”
Monica Ponce de Leon (left) and Nader Tehrani
Project: Obzee Fashion Headquarters
Location: Seoul, Korea
Architect: Himma Architecture Studio, Seoul and New York/Office dA, Boston-Hailim Suh (principal in charge)/Nader Tehrani (principal in charge), Monica Ponce de Leon (principal); Young-Il Park/Richard Lee (project coordinators); Seunghyun Kim, Jae-hyung Park, In-su Zang/Brandon Clifford, Christian Ervin (project team)
Year Founded: 1997/1991
Number of Employees: 10/19
Engineers: TNI Stuctural Engineering (structural); SUN-WOO Engineering (mechanical); Jung-Myoung Engineering Group (electrical); GAYUN Engineering & Construction (civil) Client: Obzee Co.
Size: 25,726 square feet
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