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Herzog & de Meuron's first-ever realised project in Seoul, South Korea, recently opened its doors. Inspired by elements derived from the local context, culture and environment, the building houses the ST SONGEUN offices and art spaces for the SONGEUN Art and Cultural Foundation. The structure is located on the highest point of Dosan Daero, a thoroughfare located in Cheongdam Dong in the southern part of the city. This particular district is populated by international flagship stores, restaurants and bars.
The foundation was set up in 1989 and has since been running exhibitions that provide a platform to Korean artists, both locally and on an international stage. Over the past few years, the foundation has kept pace with the steadily growing artist community, by hosting unique exhibitions and awards. The need for an exhibition space capable of encouraging experimentation with a variety of new formats grew in tandem with the growing community of contemporary artists.
The ST International HQ and SONGEUN Art Space building take the form of a sharp right-angled triangular volume. The structure's form is a result of a site study as well as a creative approach to abiding by the regulations of the site. The form allowed Herzog & de Meuron to respect the permitted volume limit specific to their site while maximising the allotted floor area. An experimental and unexpected mix of gallery spaces, offices, and public areas create a new dynamic of how mixed-use structures can be designed. With gallery spaces unfolding both above and below ground, the core idea of the building's inception was to create a complex that inspired the public to engage with contemporary art in Seoul.
Herzog & de Meuron has a large portfolio of completed contemporary museums and art spaces. One of their main focuses has been to use architecture as a tool to bring art and people together. That is no different in this case, as the project is meant to be viewed as a cultural anchor in one of the most commercial areas of Seoul. The strategic location aims to strengthen SONGEUN's presence and significantly contribute to the city's cultural topography and diversity.
The surrounding urban design consists of low-rise cuboidal buildings. The rapid transformation of the district and increase in density has led to a myriad of volumetric strategies responding to various plot regulations along the street front. The sharp triangular volume of the ST SONGEUN building allows it to stand out as a sculptural entity in a sea of cubes. The façade facing the main street is a vertical plane behind which the building slopes down towards a low back facade facing the garden. The contrasting heights of the building are responses to the site where the back façade looks out to a more intimate scale defined by the surrounding neighbourhood. With 11 stories above the ground and five floors underground, the programs of the structure are intertwined and spread across all 16 levels.
At the street entrance, a cut out of the base of the structure invites visitors from the street to the main lobby and the back garden, all of which are open to the public at all times. On the west end of the building, the car ramp has been designed as a sculptural element. The void at the centre of the curve of the descending ramp leads to an opening in the ceiling of the underground exhibition space. This creates an auditory connection between the sunken gallery and the sounds of the street. With its concrete walls, the ramp spirals around a triple-height void and defines the geometry of the grand staircase. This in turn acts as an auditorium space for screenings and lectures, leading to the second-floor galleries.
The façade that envelopes the structure has very few apertures on its continuous surface. Two tall vertical windows puncture the south facade and create framed views of the city. A triangular opening span between levels three to eight on the east, while the rear is almost completely glazed behind a layer of balconies that bring light and air into the office spaces. While the surface is finished with concrete, it is not a flat texture-less surface. Plywood boards rotated in a 1x1 metre grid are imprinted on the concrete. In addition to giving the façade a tactility, the wood grain pattern also references its namesake SONGEUN, which means Hidden Pine Tree. This texture enhances the concrete mass giving it a depth that is only visible up close.
To celebrate the launch of this major new space in Seoul, which took five years to realise, the Foundation is presenting two exhibitions: Herzog & de Meuron. Exploring SongEun Art Space, which opened September 30, 2021, and the 21st SONGEUN Art Award, opening December 10, 2021.
Name: ST International HQ and SONGEUN Art Space
Location: Seoul, Korea
Area: 800 sqm
Year of completion: 2021
Architect: Herzog & de Meuron, Jacques Herzog, Pierre de Meuron, Andreas Fries, MartinKnüsel (Partner in Charge)
Design team: Eduardo Salgado Mordt (Project Manager), FlorianStroh (Project Manager), Keunyoung Ryu (Project Manager), DavidNunes Solomon (Project Manager)Valentin Abend, José Amorim, Pablo Garrido, Jorge Guerra, JeffJang, Ludwig Kissling, Alonso Mortera, Nicolas Mourot, SoravPartap, Anna Salvioni, Ga In Sim, André Vergueiro
Executive Architect:Junglim Architecture, Seoul, Korea (Planning)
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