DESIGN & ARCHITECTURE
SEOUL’S JEWEL OASIS
Architecural design firm, Jouin Manku, known for their collaboration with Van Cleef & Arpels, creating luxury maisons worldwide, latest triumph is an exquisite boutique for the haute jewelry brand in Seoul, masterfully blending tradition and contemporary allure with nature-inspired design.
PHOTOGRAPHY: YONGJOON CHOI
For the past sixteen years, the visionary Jouin Manku studio has been on an incredible journey of collaboration with none other than Van Cleef & Arpels, the renowned French maison de haute joaillerie. Together, they have crafted unforgettable maisons that redefine luxury and artistry. Their trailblazing partnership has spanned across the globe, leaving an indelible mark on iconic cities such as Paris, New York, Hong Kong, and Tokyo. Each project has been a testament to their unrivaled expertise in merging beauty, elegance, and innovation.
And now, the saga continues with their latest triumph – the completion of Van Cleef & Arpels’ exquisite boutique in Seoul. Building upon their rich experience and a profound understanding of Korean culture, Jouin Manku studio has brought to life a masterpiece that seamlessly fuses tradition and contemporary allure.
“With the creation of this new Maison, we are celebrating ever stronger bonds with this country, known for a long tradition of craftsmanship that echoes the values espoused by Van Cleef & Arpels,” emphasizes Nicolas Bos, President, and CEO of Van Cleef & Arpels. “Indeed, the boutique was designed to form a union between the French jewelry tradition and Korean cultural heritage, and to nurture this dialogue for years to come.”
For this new project, Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku were entrusted with the entire architectural conception of the building, the interior architecture, and the design of every final detail. Bos’s commitment to savoir-faire, excellence, cultural and heritage values, from engaging in a range of cultural activities, such as commissioning dance performances to sponsoring a school of jewelry arts, deeply inspired the Jouin Manku studio.
“This project offered us the opportunity to imagine a whole new building, a structure that would establish Van Cleef & Arpels as a prominent feature in the Seoul landscape. Over five levels, we designed a dreamlike natural decor with spaces suited to hosting artistic functions – exhibitions and conferences – along an itinerary in which lively spaces alternate with intimate islands of tranquility,” share Sanjit Manku and Patrick Jouin, founders of Studio Jouin Manku.
The challenge for Jouin Manku was to meld their vision of European and occidental architecture with Korean ideas, reflecting the country’s vast cultural wealth in the project. This endeavor is in line with their belief in the spirit of opening up to the world and finding a natural place in a new ecosystem.
Sanjit Manku and Patrick Jouin, inspired by the powerful relationship with nature in Korean culture, sought to integrate the essence of Van Cleef & Arpels’ boutique in Seoul with the surrounding garden. The building and garden merge in total harmony, with vegetation present throughout the structure, creating a pathway for visitors to wander and admire the jewelry displayed amidst the enchanting landscape. To achieve this seamless integration, landscape designer Seo-Ahn Total Landscape, known for their expertise in Korean environments and endemic species, was enlisted to recreate the beauty of a typical Korean mountain nature in the heart of Seoul.
“The combination of celadon and aluminum envelops the building, which encloses, let’s say, the gardens and the interior spaces, but it’s also something that when you’re on the inside also makes you not feel like you’re in a fishbowl, we have floor-to-ceiling glass. But because of this beautiful thing that’s kind of protecting you from the inside, you also feel intimate,” describes Jouin and Manku.
Jouin Manku Studio adorned the walls of the project using Hanji, one of Korea’s ancient crafts. While the manufacturing process shares similarities with other Asian papers like Japanese “Washi” and Chinese “Xuanzhi,” Hanji stands out with a unique sieving stage. Skilled Korean craftsmen perform distinct movements that allow the plant fibers to flow in all directions, resulting in a strong yet charmingly irregular appearance.
Hanji’s versatility has led to a wide range of applications, from ordinary to surprising uses. Its exceptional durability, lasting around a thousand years compared to European paper’s two hundred years, and remarkable strength have even seen it incorporated into armor. Beyond its durability, Hanji filters light and facilitates air circulation, earning it the nickname “paper that breathes,” making it an integral part of traditional Korean interiors for a long time.
The allure of this boutique lies not only in its dazzling jewelry but also in the brilliant integration of the surrounding environment. Embracing the essence of nature, the studio has transformed the boutique into a captivating pathway, where visitors find themselves immersed in a landscape that harmoniously blends with the jewel-laden displays.
This is not just another luxury store; it’s an enchanting experience, an artistic journey, and a celebration of the timeless bond between design and nature.