Galleria Centercity by UNStudio

Ben van Berkel / UNStudio’s Galleria Centercity in Cheonan – “If museums are turning into supermarkets, why then should department stores not turn into museums?”
“The Galleria Cheonan responds to the current retail climate in Asia, where department stores also operate as social and semi-cultural meeting places. Because of this, the quality of the public spaces within the building was treated as an integral aspect of the design.” Ben van Berkel.
Eye Shopping – Re-conquering the public domain within a commercial destination
UNStudio’s Galleria Centercity Department Store in the Korean city of Cheonan reclaims the social and cultural space within the private, commercial large scale department store.
Rather than being the outcome of a prescriptive, standard-critical approach, the design of the Galleria Centercity is based on observations of current behavioural tendencies in large commercial spaces. Particularly in South East Asia, department stores serve a highly social function; people meet, gather, eat, drink and both shop and window shop in these venues. The department store is no longer solely a commercial space, it now offers the architect the opportunity to build upon and expand the social and cultural experience of the visitor. If today we are seeing the museum as a supermarket, then we are also now seeing the department store as a museum.

An expanded interpretation of utility beyond efficiency and profitability is at the heart of the design. In view of this, along with a more varied programme, UNStudio’s design seeks to provide a stimulating experience for the visitor.
On the outside, this is translated into an appearance that is almost impossible to fix. The double layered facades are articulated in a trompe l’oeuil pattern of vertical mullions. The vertical lines on the façade make the scale of the building unreadable; does it contain three floor levels, or fifteen? On the inside, this play with scale and dimension is continued in a way that is at least as radical as the outside. Upon entering, the department store is revealed as a layered and varied space which encourages investigation and unfolds as you move through and up the building.
Programmatically, the Galleria Cheonan incorporates a number of cultural and public spaces, including an art and cultural centre and a vip room. In the basement, a food court and specialty supermarket constitute another distinct destination within the building, which is simultaneously integrated with the overall design strategy.


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