A New Home for SongEun Open for the People of Seoul

Herzog & de Meuron as Architects

The new SongEun building provides art spaces for the SongEun Art and Cultural Foundation. Established in 1989 as a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting contemporary art, the foundation supports young Korean artists through the annual SongEun art award and presents significant exhibitions of international artists. In addition to the art spaces on the lower floors, office spaces are located on the upper floors.

By offering non-commercial art spaces within one of the most commercial areas of Seoul, the project stands for a private initiative for the benefit of the public, aiming to create a home for this engagement and to strengthen SongEun's presence within the city.

Creating a Simple yet Strong Volume in the Heart of Chung Dam District

The site is located prominently on the highest point of Dosan Daero, a main traffic axis crossing the Chung Dam District of southern Seoul, renowned for its flagship stores of international brands, restaurants and bars. While the neighborhood mainly consists of two- and three-story buildings, the zoning law allows for higher density towards the main street, with complex zoning rules leading to very different maximum envelopes for each plot. Due to these conditions and the rapid transformation and densification along Dosan Daero, very different volumes in various architectural styles are aligned one after another.

The proposed triangular volume results from the given building envelope on the site, maximizing the floor area, as well as exploiting the sculptural potential of the zoning law. At the same time, the building is well-embedded within the urban context with a tall vertical facade towards the main street which inclines into a low-rise facade in respect to the small-scale neighborhood. On the ground floor, the volume is cut by two lateral recesses, creating an entrance for pedestrians and another for cars.

Opening up the Building to the City

A covered walkway leads visitors from the main street to the building entrance and to an intimate walled garden that is open to the public at all times. A small opening in the garden wall enables a new pedestrian shortcut connecting the main street to the small-scale neighborhood. The entrance lobby has large frameless glazing, which can be completely open to extend through to the garden for special events. Visible from the entrance, the car ramp on the other end of the building appears as a sculptural, walkable volume, becoming both a sitting area for watching video projections and, at the same time, stairs leading up to the exhibition spaces on the second floor.

Offering Different Scales of Art Spaces on a Small Plot

Visitors are welcomed through a small entrance niche, and then enter into a medium-size art space and a separate long reading room with a large window to the garden. A small stair leads up the third level, which offers both a larger and a very small art space. A narrow window opening extends up the second and third levels to provide a framed view from the art space to the main street.

Accessible by the freight elevator, the underground gallery extends under the garden to the plot edges. The inner radius of the parking ramp carves a sculptural opening into the ceiling and offers a view from the underground back to the entrance lobby and vice versa. With its rough concrete walls, this cave-like space contrasts with the rectangular, white-painted art spaces above ground.

The triangular attic space is used as a more private art space with a view across the city towards both North and South.

"Hidden Pine Tree" - a Face for SongEun

Only a few windows slice the sculptural concrete volume. Just as many as needed to offer some views to the main street and to help orient the visitor within the building.  A triangular opening towards East and linear cuts towards North bring daylight to the office spaces.

The concrete surface is textured by using formwork of rotated wood boards. The patterns and veins of these wooden boards add a tactile quality to the volume. Simultaneously, they visualize and express the meaning behind the name SongEun: "Hidden Pine Tree".

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