Hanwha Stores Co’s Chameleon-like Facade

Rogier van der Heide – Arup Lighting – Hyperreality in the urban context

He discussed the question “Who are we building these facades for?” and talked about the process of design and manufacture of one of his best known pieces of work, as the lead designer for Arups on the Galleria facde in Seoul. The windowless Galleria West mall used to be a drab, understated presence in the Apgujeong-dong district, one of Seoul’s most exclusive shopping areas. The client, Hanwha Stores Co, wanted to turn it into a landmark building that would reflect the exclusive boutiques within its walls.


UN Studio and Arup Lighting were brought on board to recreate the mall’s exterior, with additional support from Arup’s structural engineers. Together they developed a chameleon-like facade that reflects the subtleties of natural light on opalescent, dichroic glass discs during the day. At night the discs are individually backlit and controlled by a computer program to create colour schemes all over the building – each disc acting like a big pixel on a screen.


Rogier van der Heide went through various stages of modelling the facade, begining with very simply with cardboard, fibre optics, gels, and colour filters, followed by more sophisticated technologies and analysis, plus input from fellow design team members. 4330 discs, each 850mm in diameter, make up the entire facade of the mall.


  1. Hi Archimedes, and thanks for posting the project on your blog! It’s been up and running now for several years, and could perhaps seen as the first transformative, hyperreal facade when it opened in 2005. Now, there are so many examples of “media facades” around, that it has become something almost expected or ubiquitous. With technology readily available, the key to such projects is integration (with architecture and facade technology) and content. The architect and designer have to think holistic, and work on technical unification instead of just sticking screens to buildings, and, on the other hand, it is the content that will make the “screen” intrisic to the building, it’s function or design, and that can differentiate the project from the many other media / architecture initiatives around the world. One could say, this redefines the role of the architect, and Ben van Berkel of UN Studio, who designed the Galleria West shopping centre, had as always a strong vision on this when he started the project.
    Anyway, thanks again for posting, and I hope to see many interesting things on your weblog!

    Rogier van der Heide IALD
    principal, Arup

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