ST/SongEun Building Seoulo: Herzog & de Meuron’s Artistic Marvel
Project Name: SongEun Building
Project Architect: Herzog & de Meuron
Project Location: Gangnam-Gu, South Korea
Project Area: 8167 sq. m
Project Year: 2021
Client: ST International & SONGEUN Art and Cultural Foundation
Client Representative: Laurencina Farrant-Lee
Client Consulting: HanmiGlobal Co., LTD, Seoul, Korea
Project Partners: Andreas Fries, Pierre de Meuron, Jacques Herzog
Partner in Charge: Martin Knüsel
Project Team: Florian Stroh (Project Manager), David Nunes Solomon (Project Manager), Eduardo Salgado Mordt (Project Manager), Keunyoung Ryu (Project Manager), Ga In Sim, Valentin Abend, José Amorim, Pablo Garrido, Jorge Guerra, André Vergueiro Jang, Alonso Mortera, Jeff Salvioni, Ga In Sim, Nicolas Mourot, Ludwig Kissling,, Anna Salvioni, André Vergueiro, Sorav Partap
Executive Architect: Junglim Architecture, Seoul, Korea
ST/SongEun Building Seoulo serves as new accommodation for SongEun and the residents of Seoul. The contemporary ST SONGEUN Building contains the SONGEUN Art and Cultural Foundation, a non-profit group founded in 1989, as well as ST International’s corporate offices.
ST/SongEun Building by Herzog & de Meuron is a wedge-shaped block to house Seoul’s art. Herzog & de Meuron’s first completed project in Southern Korea is a pointy concrete structure located in the Chung Dam District.
The Art and Cultural Foundation of SongEun promotes works of local artists and has art studios along with exhibition spaces in the building. It is envisaged that it would become a cultural monument for the capital city and will assist modern South Korean artists to get international recognition.
An architect’s knowledge of how to build modern museums is increasingly centered on how to bring artworks and society together. How can we create a place that is beneficial to the work and its creators, as well as the curator and the general public?
When Herzog & de Meuron were tasked with designing the new ST/SongEun Building Korea in 2016, the goal was clear: to build a cultural anchor that welcomes the public and expands Korean artists’ visibility to the worldwide contemporary art scene. The initiative seeks to increase SONGEUN’s presence and substantially contribute to the city’s cultural landscape and variety by providing non-commercial art areas within one of Seoul’s highly commercial neighborhoods.
The location of ST/SongEun Building Seoulo is on the highest altitude of Dosan Daero, a boulevard in Cheongdam Dong, Seoul’s southern district, known for its foreign flagship stores, eateries, and bars. While the area is mostly made up of low-rise structures, the zoning allows for a larger density around the main thoroughfare. A variety of volumetric methods adhering to varied plot rules lie along the street frontage, catalyzed by the area’s fast change and densification.
The ST/SongEun Building by Herzog & de Meuron is distinguished by its acute triangular volume. The building’s cohesive shape, which is the product of the site’s envelope, maximizes the permitted floor area while also addressing the zoning law’s sculptural possibilities.
A towering front facade confronts the high street and houses the structure’s core, while a low back facade overlooks the garden, where the surrounding neighborhood is defined by a more intimate scale. The completed structure has 11 stories above ground level and 5 floors beneath, totaling approximately 8000 sq m. The lower floors house a combination of exhibition rooms and art studios, while the higher levels house the headquarters of ST International, an energy business.
The concrete mass not only carries the entire structure but also defines all space and ornamental surfaces. Using larch plywood boards rotated in a 1-by-1 meter grid, the concrete facade is imprinted with wood grain patterns and expresses the meaning behind the name SONGEUN: “Hidden Pine Tree”, stated the design team.
The pattern of wood grains on the exterior concrete walls was produced by altering the location of the wooden boards used in the formwork. The idea to emboss wood textures on the concrete is a reference to the building’s and organization’s names, which translates to secret pine tree. The building’s metropolitan presence is brought down to a tangible human scale by its distinctive texture, which encourages the eye and hand to explore its many characteristics.
The south elevation is punctuated by two big vertical panes that offer panoramic views of the city. On the east facade, a triangular aperture spans floors 3 to 8, whereas the back is nearly entirely glass behind a tier of balconies that provide access to daylight and serve natural ventilation into the offices.
Because of the structure’s hermetic street side, the building conveys uniqueness and spaciousness. From the street, a cutout in the base welcomes guests to the main lobby area and the intimate garden, which is available to the general public at all points of time. A column encased in a seamless LED screen at the entryway serves as an appealing lantern advertising current shows and a second location to display creative material.
The automobile ramp is handled as a dramatic volume on the tower’s western end. The descending ramp’s curvature carves a sculptural entrance in the underground gallery space’s ceiling, linking this submerged gallery to the bustle, sounds, and lighting on the street.
The shiny silver leaf finishes adorning the ramp’s interiors and parking space underneath contrasts with the cave-like design’s concrete walls. The ramp swirls around a triple-height void, defining the form of the magnificent staircase that leads to the 2nd-floor galleries and serves as both a boundary and an auditorium area for films and talks.
The initial exhibition program runs concurrently with the building’s inauguration. The exhibition titled Herzog & de Meuron Exploring SongEun Art Space is the very first phase of this.
The exhibition’s central emphasis is on the structure itself, and it includes documents from Herzog & de Meuron’s design and construction process. In addition to architectural elements, there are artworks by international artists with whom Herzog & de Meuron architects and the organization have formerly cooperated.
ST/SongEun Building Seoulo is an expression of minimalism with a contemporary approach to the building. The finely crafted elevation design maintains the modern design language and harmonizes with the site context. Homed in the busy street, the wedge-shaped tower seeks the passerby’s attention with its unique form.
The design team tactically dealt with the building’s zoning and planning in order to serve the visitors with a unique experience. The design caters to the site context and successfully depicts the meaning of the building’s name.
The design of the building makes the spaces welcoming with its neat aesthetics. It is a remarkable example of how architecture brings together community and artworks. Through its inviting design, the building welcomes artists and the local community to appraise traditional and contemporary art. At the same time, the structure responds to the site surroundings and cultural diversity of Seoul.
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