In the American novel The Great Gatsby, the representation of class and wealth is far from idealized. But in the hands of South Korean designer Mingu Kang, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic takes on unlikely optimism.
Stepping into Liberty Night and Day in Seoul, designed by Kang’s firm KMGD, feels like a visit to Jay Gatsby’s mansion. “The overall concept was derived from the keyword ‘liberty,’” Kang says. While contemplating that idea, he became inspired by Fitzgerald’s take on the indulgences of the roaring ’20s. As he sees it, the wealthy guests, intent on success and pursuing money, attended the hedonistic celebrations to throw off society’s chains. Gatsby’s estate acted as a den of liberation, something Kang aimed to reproduce through his version of a party palace. “I wanted to create a space for young people who are bound by the fierce pressure of Korean society, for those who like to dream extravagantly, free from bondage,” he says.
That meant interpreting the 1920s through a contemporary lens. Gilded art deco motifs accent two floors of paneling and mirrors, and colonnades encircle a central dance floor. A grand staircase flows down, enveloping a stage for live music acts, toward a main pentagonal bar bordered by lipstick-red chairs. A tower displaying liquor bottles rises from the middle, its torch-like shape appropriated from the Statue of Liberty.
A more hushed vibe awaits at the speakeasy hidden on the second floor, done up in handsome tones of green and herringbone floors. On the rooftop lounge, Kang throws a curveball—vintage embellishments are replaced by clean-lined concrete and steel, complete with a glass-panelled fireplace and a well-stocked bookcase. With its sunken seating, living wall, and zigzagging plunge pool, one might mistake the garden area for a friend’s stylish penthouse. Maybe Kang just interpreted the idea of liberty in a purer form: as space.