In the world of the athlete, passion is everything. He is not just a person who plays soccer—he is a “soccer player.” What happens when a sporting goods retailer grabs hold of this pride of lifestyle, and dares to be different by employing it within the retail environment? Two international athletic brands took just that step with dramatic, lifestyle-driven flagship concepts for their respective skiwear and golf brands.
Housed in the rolling foothills of the Austrian Alps, the new, architecturally inspired flagship for Intersport Bründl in Kaprun, Austria, did not aim to casually blend in with its Alpine surroundings. Instead, the 17,222-sq.-ft., four-level ski equipment and outerwear store is a modern architectural feat, nearly double the size of its previous flagship in the same location. The Bründl brand, founded in 1956 by Johann Bründl as a 129-sq.-ft. sports shop in Kaprun, has grown dramatically in the last decade, now up to 235 employees and 17 stores.
“Design and architecture create emotions, illusions, stories and pictures,” says Christoph Bründl, Johann’s son, who now serves as CEO of Salzburg, Austria-based Bründl Sports. Because the Kaprun store is so popular among holiday skiers in the local resorts, the store’s customers are constantly changing every week. “It is very important when we get guests that they understand immediately—what is the message of this store?” he adds.
The building’s exterior is quite striking, especially for an Alpine setting. Using metal lamellae and glass that appear as a staggered crevasse, the architects created a sculptural object that simultaneously blends in with and contradicts the surrounding mountain landscape. “The building refers to the alpine scenery in a playful way,” says Angela Kreutz, partner of Stuttgart, Germany-based Blocher Blocher Partners, the architects for the Kaprun store. “The artificially created landscape of the shopping world contacts the real landscape.”
Through its architecture, design, atmosphere, service and advice, the new Kaprun flagship concept aims to serve as a “social market” that brings people together. In addition to selling merchandise, Bründl Kaprun features a cafeteria, a fireside lounge, a 3-D cinema, a trekking path and a climbing rock to encourage customer interaction and engagement. “There was the desire not only to link shopping and adventure, but to create a place for communication,” Kreutz explains.
The interior design repeats the exterior theme and interprets the geometry of the façade. An overall granite core links all four of the shopping floors via a central stairwell, with a stiffening beam structure that repeats the style of the sloping stairs and is based on diagonals resulting in triangles and rhombi. To keep the modern interpretation of nature throughout the space, materials such as exposed concrete, graphite brick, deep brushed oak and powdered steel are used for interior finishes.
Bründl’s brand motto is: “We are extraordinarily different.” For a mountain village, the architecture for the Kaprun flagship was meant to be “very daring, polarizing and urban,” Kreutz explains.
Another retailer taking a fresh approach to what might be considered a traditional sport is the Elord Golf Fashion flagship store in Seoul, South Korea. The luxury Korean golf brand had previously worked with London-based JHP Design on the creation of a new design concept for its concession sites within department stores in Korea. The commercial success of that concept then led to the development of a 1,500-sq.-ft. Elord Hills flagship store at the company’s new headquarters in Seoul.
Working with Elord’s in-house design team, JHP was asked to take the core elements of the concession concept and create a store that combined “the science of golf with the height of fashion,” says Austin McGinley, head of marketing, JHP Design.
Building on that high-fashion theme, the design team used legendary golfer Ben Hogan’s notorious quote to summarize the flagship store: “If you look good, you feel good, and if you feel good, you play good.”
“In Korea, golf isn’t just a game—it is a philosophy and a lifestyle,” McGinley explains.
“Every generation lays claim to it from old to young, and from conventional to anarchic.” The Elord product range, which is highly technical and specialist in nature, sits effortlessly alongside Elord’s high fashion clothing and accessories, he adds. “Even if one doesn’t play golf, it does not deter prospective customers from entering the store,” McKinney says. “This has been our greatest achievement.”
The building’s exterior design and architectural footprint is quite dramatic, created by Korean architectural firm Opus+Monosome. The inspiration for the contemporary approach plays on the golf theme as well. “The whole building has been designed as a massive bunker that, unlike the real thing, all players want to enter,” McGinley jests.
The exterior concept translates directly into the interior space, with references to the sport of golf found throughout the store, including padded walls and fixtures clad in golf-bag leather, a cash desk with a shape that mimics “the perfect swing,” enlarged “golf ball” fixtures and illuminated flag pins as hanging rails. Diverse materials, from black composite tiles to molded Corian fixtures to LED lighting, work together to create the overall feel of a “high-tech, contemporary club house,” McGinley explains.
Like Bründl, the Elord flagship design is meant to be flexible enough to appeal to all, while also capturing the passion and drive of the lifestyle behind the brand.