Our first-person tour of a three-story brand environment that serves as an “expression” of Genesis’ Korean origin
Stepping through the doors of Genesis House, you are immediately hit with a subtle new-car scent—not the mass manufactured kind infused in a rearview mirror hanging decal. Rather, a curated, can’t-quite-say-you’ve-ever-encountered-it type of scent. Next, ambient tones greet your ears as a “curator” steps forward to welcome you in.
This experience center, which marked its one-year anniversary in November, is not just a showroom for Hyundai’s luxury automotive brand Genesis and its line of sedans, SUVs and electric vehicles. Located in New York City’s Meatpacking District overlooking Hudson River Park, the space is a three-story “expression” of the brand’s Korean origin and is rich in culture and hospitality instead of overt lifestyle messaging.
You won’t find a piece of signage or a touch screen in sight. The messages are subtle. Vehicles parked within the street-facing exterior windows are gently draped in hand-formed, copper mesh ceiling-to-floor curtains that offer a “peek” inside to passersby and are a nod to the attention to detail in the vehicles’ design and construction. There are copper accents throughout, like the minimalist copper desk gently shaped in the Genesis logo (in Korean culture, copper is lucky and is believed to have a cleansing effect on the soul). Underneath your feet is a reclaimed wood floor look juxtaposed to cement walls and accents that signify the old and the new. One other standout: An elevator interior fully wrapped in copper.
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There is an embrace of “white space” throughout. Artistic installations tap into a visitor’s curiosity, like an infinity mirror that signifies the future of automotive, and a large flip-screen wall featuring 91,000 coin-sized tabs, black in color on one side and copper colored on the other, that can be custom programmed to flip in different sequences. One corner of the space features mosaic mirrors on all sides that allow guests to see the different angles of the Genesis electrified GV60 in an artful, analog fashion.
Automotive brand centers are experience-driven alternatives to the high-pressure environment of a dealership. They help brands “live” in a market and a neighborhood, and carry out strategic partnerships or curated events and programming to increase engagement. But what differentiates Genesis House from others that have come and gone is the cultural immersion.
“More so than some of the other experience centers, this is absolutely rooted in its Korean heritage, from the architecture to the cuisine to the overall philosophy of how we approach everything,” says Rachel Espersen, executive director-head of brand experience at Genesis House & Studios.
TIP! What is your brand’s signature scent? Pump it up and out to trigger the olfactory bulb in the brain. “Odors take a direct route to the limbic system, including the amygdala and the hippocampus, the regions related to emotion and memory.”
–The Harvard Gazette, “What the Nose Knows”
Espersen—whose background is in marketing, food and beverage, and luxury events—manages the 46,000-square-foot space’s events, programming and restaurant operations, as well as the partnerships. “My role is also looking at the long-term strategy for what does this mean for the larger Genesis brand, the halo effect of this crown jewel of the Genesis ecosystem of brand spaces here and in Europe and Korea—how does this affect the brand overall as we are growing in awareness in the U.S. and around the world,” she says.
On the second floor is a fully operational Korean restaurant curated by the Michelin-starred Onjium, led by Executive Chef Andy Choi, and featuring a menu “inspired by imperial and royal cuisine.” There is also a full bar and a cocktail menu based on soju, a traditional Korean rice liquor. The team utilizes different handmade dishware and serving platters from Korea for every dish (sometimes, ancient dishware) which is changed out seasonally. Certainly, the restaurant experience is, in and of itself, a major and strategic draw.
“There’s true storytelling here,” Espersen says. “Most of the dishes on the menu are not found in any of the restaurants in New York City. They’re completely unique to this space.”
Adjacent to the restaurant space is a traditional tea pavilion and library where consumers are free to visit throughout the day to relax, work, read and enjoy light snacks. Think: puffed rice with yuja marmalade in the center, yakgwa, “a honey-ginger soaked cookie”—a recipe that dates back a thousand years—and a pine nut meringue. Furniture is curated in partnership with Suh Architects, which designed Genesis House, while the book collection is curated by French luxury book publisher, Assouline. (On our visit, a consumer in athleisure arrived in the bright, windowed pavilion, cracked open a lap top and took a call. It’s an inviting space.)
Downstairs, Genesis House boasts a state-of-the-art event space equipped for about 200 guests with a floor-to-ceiling stage composed of LED tiles that offers sweeping three-dimensional visuals. The space has played host to Genesis vehicle reveals, events for media or fashion brands and sleek after-parties for museum events.
And as typical in automotive experience centers, consumers cannot purchase a vehicle at Genesis House. They can sit in the vehicles, talk with curators about their specs, and then visit the Genesis Studio at Hudson Yards to test drive one and learn more. All actual orders take place at authorized retailers.
“There are three entry ways into learning about or wanting to experience Genesis House,” Espersen explains. “They could be interested in the car and never knew we had a restaurant. Maybe they want to try the restaurant and never know that we did programming. Or maybe someone who attends programming will learn about it that way and then decide to have a cocktail upstairs. It’s the perfect mix of getting all three of these pathways correct, and having these points of discovery for everybody.”
With many automotive manufacturers setting deadlines to go all-electric (Genesis plans to transition to all-electric by 2030), the messaging across the industry is shifting toward the future. But Genesis has found a sweet spot that invites consumers to be present in the moment. As one reviewer proclaimed, “They are putting a heck of a sheen on the brand with this facility. Michelin-rated chefs and top-notch automotive design pair nicely.”This story appeared in the Winter 2022-23 issue