Opened in 2013, Hyundai Card Design Library is the first edition of Hyundai Card’s library series. It is a home to 18,000 books on art, architecture, fashion, and all genres of contemporary design.
Design Library symbolizes an important part of the company’s vision. “We decided to present and celebrate one of culture’s oldest analog formats — the book — while and despite the fact that our business, finance, is a cutting-edge industry,” a Hyundai Card official said.
Located in Bukchon, one of Seoul’s oldest neighborhoods, the Design Library building design shows a combination of traditional Korean hanok architectural features and a sleek modern structure. The three-story building consists of three main sections: the exhibition hall, the reading rooms, and the book café. In the center of the library building is a courtyard garden, an essential part of the layout of every hanok.
“In addition to the conventional function of a library, which is to house books, we wanted to make Design Library a space where visitors can completely immerse themselves in books, a place where they can get inspired,” the official said.
Rare Book Collection
Design Library’s collection highlights the direction of design following the foundation of Bauhaus, the German school of craft and fine art, in 1919. Nearly 70 percent of its books are rarely procured.
Rare publications include the complete collection of Life magazine (1883-2002), the celebrated American photography magazine that depicted the lives of public figures as well as ordinary people in an objective manner. Also available is the complete collection of Italian design and architecture magazine Domus (1928-present).
Every quarter, the library exhibits rare book collection on the main rare collection table located on the second floor of the library.
Room to Read
All books are sorted into four zones, each with its own separate categories and sub-categories on everything from industrial design to contemporary art. In total, there are 45 sub-categories classifying all books in the library, each with its own color code to it easy to find relevant volumes.
For curating the book collection, the Design Library worked with Justin McGuirk, a design curator who received the Golden Lion Award at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale, and Alexandra Lange, a design writer and editor at the New York Times. In addition, through Hyundai Card’s long-standing partnership with the MoMa (Museum of Modern Art), the library consulted with Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator of Design at MoMA, from the very beginning of the content selection process.
Books were chosen from a pool of more than 40,000 design publications from around the world. The final 18,000 were selected based on seven main principles: Inspiring, Useful, Thorough, Wide-Ranging, Aesthetic, and Timeless. Each month, the library’s staff update the books with bookmark commentaries that explain each book’s content and value.
On the third floor of the library is a small attic-like nook called “Gioheon,” inspired from a room built inside of a palace during Joseon Dynasty era as a prince’s contemplation space. The tiny room with an enormous window mimics the philosophy of “a big ambition and a humble heart,” emphasizing the difference between a person and their vision. The window commands a view of the neighborhood over roofs of both hanok and modern architecture. It is well-loved by the library’s visitors as it allows them to view the traditional, modern and natural components of the city at once.
Seven Principles for Selecting Good Design Books