Revolutionary digital innovation, in a historical building. Wherever you look, there is a conspicuous contrast of the old and new.
The building occupied by Asiance, the Korean digital agency, was built in the 1930s and brings with it a very strong feeling. The renovation was entrusted to Christian Barde, a French designer who lives in Korea for last 19 years. While retaining the original feeling, it was turned into a creative office space.
Stepping into the office, the first thing that catches the eye is the ceiling. It is partially open, revealing the bare wood skeleton beneath. All of the insulation was removed from the walls during renovation, but the holes and nails were left in the wood. “That was the most time-consuming part of the work,” says CEO Bosun Kim.
“However, we were very happy with the result we obtained. It’s an office that has the Japanese sense of wabi-sabi (subdued refinement). We may have the image of being cold and hard, since we deal with advanced technology, but we wanted to express in one space that we are comparatively an emotional, open-minded organizational culture.”
The building, built in the early 20th century, was previously occupied by the Shin-a ilbo newspaper. In 1975 the top four floors were added. The outer walls were built with bricks imported from Shanghai.
Founded: 2004 Sales: More than $4 million Clients: More than 250 companies worldwide Employees: 40 (2013) http://asiance.com
Ninety-five percent of the company’s clients are global firms. Their main work involves localization for the Korean market, creation of digital strategies, omnidirectional marketing and other activities. They have constructed e-commerce sites for such top International brands as Lacoste, Bulgari, Coach and Gucci, and worked as the companies’ business partner in establishing their presence in Korea.
Asiance itself was once oriented toward global expansion, but the decision was made that the company would need a strong base within Korea. While considering their location, through their work with global companies they changed direction to work with Asian and global markets.
When visitors come from overseas, Ms. Kim says that they hold an opening ceremony in which they take a walk around the office. The idea is that they can convey the identity of the company through the office itself. The Korean domestic digital agency business is fiercely competitive. To differentiate the company from others, the people at Asiance believe that the fastest way is to show the client the contrast in the design.
The view is impressive from the entrance. From the outside, the image is cool, appropriate for a digital agent. Once you step into the office, however, the organically curving walls and framework of the ceiling give it a natural feeling.
“When customers first came to us, there were more than a few who were a bit bewildered and thought that perhaps they were at the wrong company,” Ms. Kim says. “They were surprised by the gap between the cool exterior and the warm interior. They said, ‘It’s like Candid Camera.’ ”
Visitors from overseas are brought up to see the view from the roof, and often voice their admiration as well. The office is in Jeong-dong, in central Seoul. This was the first area where foreigners lived in Korea, and today still is home to many foreign delegations, including the consulate of Canada, and the US and Russian embassies. Its unique feature is that it retains more of the “traditional Seoul” feeling than other parts of the city.
“There are many digital agencies like us in Gangnam (south of the Han river),” Ms. Kim says. “Gangnam is known for its modern buildings and fashionable people, but the bad side is that it is rather bleak and not so interesting. Jeong-dong has an ancient royal palace, and the feeling of old Seoul lives on here. That real charm of Seoul is something we want to share with the people from companies around the world, something we really think about as their local partner in Korea. If they then think, ‘I’d like to go back to Korea,’ then it makes our work that much smoother.”
Consultancy for Work Style: In-house
Interior Design: Parafe
From WORKSIGHT 06
The uncovered wooden framework gives the meeting room a warm feeling. The illumination is by German lighting designer Ingo Maurer.
The view from the rooftop gives a full view of the historical buildings of Jeong-dong.
Awards presented to the company for its work. The photo shows domestic awards; the company has also won numerous international prizes.