Visitors to a certain Berlin nightclub in 1999 likely didn’t realize its owners would someday run a creative studio. But sure enough, its three proprietors were also Technische Universität architecture students in the midst of breaking into the design world. “When there weren’t enough projects, we were behind the bar,” Martin Jacobs recalls of the early days post-graduation, when he co-founded Kinzo Architekten with classmates Karim El-Ishmawi and Chris Middleton in 2004. That same year, they designed their studio’s own office.
It turned out to be the first of many. Today, with a staff of nearly 60, the firm’s roster of corporate clients includes Adidas, Soundcloud, and Miele. Most recently, Kinzo took on the top floor of AmorePacific’s headquarters located inside a Seoul high-rise by David Chipperfield Architects. From the get-go, El-Ishmawi, who led the project, and team had to factor in the company’s scope—not just that it was already South Korea’s largest cosmetics brand but also that it’s growing, which meant providing ample incubation and flex spaces for in-house start-ups.
The result was outfitting the 33,000-square-foot floor plan with various communal and work areas. Chief among them are 10 break-out pods. They are modeled after the traditional houses of the city’s Gahoe-Dong neighborhood and equipped with such brainstorming essentials as whiteboards and outlets. The pods are joined by myriad social areas, including a circular library with tiered shelves that hold some 8,000 books and double as seating. In the café, greenery nods to the AmorePacific logo, while orange is the color of its bar—the other thing that Kinzo does well.