Music-loving members of Korea’s largest credit card company, Hyundai Card, have a new venue to call their own. Set within a steep hillside in the rapidly changing Yongsan (“Dragon Hill”) district overlooking Seoul to the south, the Hyundai Card Music Library + Understage is the latest outpost to join a handful of exclusive card-member amenities.
Gensler was tasked with creating an immersive and engaging experience for musicians and other Hyundai Card members that would elevate the Hyundai Card brand as a purveyor of unique cultural experiences. The branding for the space needed to flow seamlessly, offering context and organization in some areas and providing streamlined directional information in others.
The project’s underlying goal was to create an approachable experience that would appeal to a broad cross-section of people, to get them interested in art and music as a way for Hyundai Card to build an emotional connection with its customers.
Conceived as a comprehensive forum for music performance and education, Music Library + Understage consists of a concert hall, an artists’ lounge complete with practice studios, an open performance plaza, a café and a carefully curated music library for Hyundai Card-carrying members. The music library is the striking home to more than 10,000 hand-picked vinyl records and 3,000 books from the 1950s to present day, including a complete set of Rolling Stone magazines.
The Gensler team was inspired by the music counterculture of the 1960s and 70s. To create a sense of time and place, the brand design team created a comprehensive environmental graphics program that fit within the industrial-themed aesthetic.
The design solution relied on raw and industrial materials to capture the tone and feel of street music culture. The desire was to create an environment that was authentic but also superlative. Graphics and signage were used to spotlight and organize the unique content within the library. Strong, gestural wayfinding was necessary to move visitors through complicated spaces full of energetic crowds.
The resulting program is fully integrated with the architectural features of the building while tying all of the different spaces together into one consistent, layered experience.
In addition to creating environmental graphic design and wayfinding for the four-story building, the Gensler team was also charged with establishing the organizational system for the record library catalog system and curating a collection of hundreds of vintage music posters.
The design team created a detailed configuration of the music collection divided by timeline, then genre and columns and rows denoted with custom brass signage. Raw materials such as brass, neon and painted metal mesh blended with distressed typography characterize the wayfinding that carries visitors through the space. Thin lines inspired by Brooklyn’s indie underground culture streamline the flow for hundreds of people heading in and out of the small corridor to the performance stage on the lower level.
Each space is unique, tying into the tone and feel of street-music culture. A chalk mural with famous musician quotes adorns the musician’s lounge, and practice rooms were made from converted shipping containers adorned with distressed typography. The team engaged and collaborated with renowned street artists JR and VHILS to create billboard-sized murals behind the performance stage and on the exterior of the building, providing street recognition and immediately engendering a strong sense of place within the emerging neighborhood.
The client measured the success of the program through the international buzz created by the opening of the space. Hyundai Card has been able to capitalize on a huge positive impact on social media, consistently booking notable Korean artists and becoming a hub for music culture in Yongsan.
Philippe Paré (principal-in-charge); Sabu Song (design director); Julius Bhang (project manager); Meghan Moran, Jia You, Samantha Cabrera, John Emshwiller, E.J. Shin (designers); Jeff Fukawa (technical director)
SANAA and Ga.A Architects (core and shell architects); Dawon ID&C (contractor); Hyundai Capital (property owner); KGM, Moritz Hammer (lighting consultants); Alpha Media Group (A/V consultant); Vhils, Duarte Cavalinhos, JR, Marc Azoulay (art)
"A new world of customer culture, extremely well presented."
"A feeling of grittiness and authenticity is achieved throughout the project—from the distressed typography on the exterior to the interior wayfinding and identification signs that respond to their environment. How many times have we been asked by clients to put a line on the ground for patrons to follow? Here they have done it and made it fresh and playful by having the line climb onto walls in order to function as a sign and then back onto the polished concrete floors as a trail."