International practice, Herzog & de Meuron has completed Songeun Art Space, located in the south of Seoul. Conceived as a monolithic structure, the building aims to become a cultural anchor for the city and its emerging artists.
The 59-metre-high building holds eleven floors above the ground and five below, offering non-commercial space within one of the most commercial areas of Seoul. Renowned for its international flagship stores, restaurants and bars, the neighbourhood’s zoning laws allow for higher density along the main street. Sitting among its neighbours, the Songeun Art Space is distinguished by its sharp triangular volume.
The functional distribution of the building offers four levels of exhibition space and six levels of office space. The remaining is shared between art storage facility, auditorium space and three levels of parking space.
“Our experience, designing contemporary museums, increasingly focuses on how we can bring art and people together. How can we make a space that works for the art and the artist, for the curator and the public?” said Herzog & de Meuron.
“When Herzog & de Meuron was commissioned to design the new SONGEUN Art Space in 2016, the ambition was clear: to create a cultural anchor that invites the public and broadens the exposure of Korean artists to the international contemporary art scene.”
The impassive front face of the building expresses difference at the urban level and openness on the street level as you approach the building.
At the ground plane, the building has two cantilevered cut-outs which invite the visitor inside to explore the main lobby and intimate garden, open to public at all times.
In contrast to the South façade that hosts the building’s core, the lower west side façade faces the garden in a more intimate scale through its sloping façade.
Daniel Libeskind once said, “Architecture is not based on concrete and steel, and the elements of the soil. It's based on wonder.” The new art centre’s materiality lends it the same seductive quality.
Concrete can often be seen as hostile but the architects here have chosen to tattoo its surface with natural wood grains of larch plywood by rotating the boards in a 1 by 1 metre grid.
This helps make concrete seem breathable, attracting human eye to its surface to read the pattern printed there. Inspired by the ephemeral quality found in churches, the art space appeals to our senses and invites us to wonder and discover its many spaces.
Internally, the car ramp is treated as a sculptural element, which doubles as a public walkway. While on it, people are able to discover the organic nature of its interior exhibition spaces.
This cave-like sunken exhibition space below is defined by the spiralling ramp, creating triple-height void, connecting it to the activity, sound, and light at street-level.
“The ramp spirals around a triple-height void and defines the geometry of the grand staircase which acts as both a threshold and auditorium space for screenings and lectures, leading to the second-floor galleries,” said the architects.
Resembling an old factory in its appearance, externally, the hermetic façade of the building is only broken at few defining apertures, which are carefully calibrated inside. Two tall rectangular openings disturb the street-facing façade, revealing the city in unexpected ways to the visitors inside.
The rear is more transparent with its fully glazed façade behind a series of balconies, bringing light and air in to the offices.
Like with so many other buildings designed by the duo, the Songeun Art Space has all the qualities to becomes an anchor for the city of Seoul.
The building’s architecture intrigues and delights the visitors, leading to a contemplative experience for them. The expansive design gesture of its massing and intimate detailing lend this urban building a tactile human scale.
Project Name: ST International HQ and SONGEUN Art Space Location: 92-9,92-10, Cheongdam Dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, Korea Client: SONGEUN Art and Cultural Foundation & ST International Architect:Herzog & de Meuron Project Team: Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron, Andreas Fries, Martin Knüsel (Partner in Charge) Executive Architect: Junglim Architecture, Seoul, Korea Client Consulting:HanmiGlobal Co., LTD, Seoul, Korea Site Area: 1'179m² Gross Floor Area (GFA): 8'167m² Number of Levels: 11 AG (+5 UG) Exhibition: 2,981 m² on 4 levels Art Storage: 532 m² on 2 levels Office: 2,032m² on 6 levels Auditorium: 1,480m² on 1 level Parking area: 1,142m² on 3 levels Image:Iwan Baan , Jihyun Jung Video: Kyoung Duk Joo, JDR Studio.
The practice has designed a wide range of projects from the small scale of a private home to the large scale of urban design. Many projects are highly recognized public facilities, such as museums, stadiums, and hospitals, and they have completed distinguished private projects including offices, laboratories and apartment buildings. Awards received include the Pritzker Architecture Prize (USA) in 2001, the RIBA Royal Gold Medal (UK), the Praemium Imperiale (Japan), both in 2007, and the Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize (USA) in 2014.