Cover The Hyundai Seoul will be the city's largest mall (photo: Courtesy)

The much-anticipated Hyundai Seoul department store will open in Yeouido this week. Is this the future of socially-distanced shopping?

The Hyundai Seoul, the city's biggest mall, will open this Friday in the financial district, Yeouido, and is anchored by the Hyundai Department Store, which will be the largest department store in the capital. The hotly-anticipated project, which was first announced in 2016, features futuristic new retail experiences inspired by recent events—developed using Amazon Web Services technology, several stores in the mall on the top floors are unstaffed and, according to early reports, will allow shoppers to enter with QR codes and make unassisted purchases through mobile apps.

Centered around an atrium featuring a nature installation that incorporates a waterfall and an indoor botanical garden, the Hyundai Seoul is also home to new museum ALT.1, which will host a large-scale Andy Warhol retrospective scheduled to open in conjunction with the mall opening. 

"Based on our 50 years of capacity in the retail business and innovations created from our knowhow, we will develop our new department store into a representative lifestyle landmark of Seoul," Hyundai Department Store CEO Kim Hyung-jong told the Korea Times last month. "We will offer new shopping experiences and values that shoppers have never come across before and suggest new directions for future department stores."

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The mall spans 12 stories: six underground and six aboveground. Retail tenants include fashion houses such as Bottega Veneta, Gucci, Saint Laurent, Moncler, Balenciaga, Prada, Fendi, and Burberry; watch and jewellery brands such as Bulgari, IWC, Boucheron, Tudor, Omega, Jaeger-LeCoultre, and Panerai; and beauty brands including Cle de Peau Beaute, Sisley, Santa Maria Novella, Byredo, Estee Lauder, and Frederic Malle.

Designed by architect Lord Richard Rogers—who is perhaps best-known for his work on Paris' Pompidou Centre, London's Lloyd's building, and London Heathrow Terminal 5—the building's "purple-red columns and dancheong" are inspired by traditional Korean architecture. It is one of the last projects Rogers undertook before announcing his retirement last autumn.