Headquarters ST International and SONGEUN Art Space / Herzog & de Meuron
Photographs: Iwan Baan
A new home for SONGEUN and the people of Seoul. The new ST SONGEUN building houses art spaces for the SONGEUN Foundation for Art and Culture – a non-profit organization created in 1989 – as well as the headquarters offices of ST International. Our experience in designing contemporary museums increasingly focuses on how we can bring art and people together. How do we create a space that works for the art and the artist, for the curator and the audience? 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 art scene. contemporary. By offering non-commercial art spaces in one of Seoul’s most commercial areas, the project aims to strengthen SONGEUN’s presence and contribute significantly to the city’s topography and cultural diversity.
Precise geometry at the heart of Cheongdam Dong. The site is located on the highest point of Dosan Daero, a thoroughfare in Cheongdam Dong in south Seoul, famous for its international flagship stores, restaurants and bars. While the neighborhood consists mostly of low rise buildings, the zoning allows for higher density towards the main street. Catalyzed by the rapid transformation and densification of the neighborhood, a myriad of volumetric strategies meeting various parcel regulations can be found along the street front.
A clear triangular volume distinguishes the ST SONGEUN building. Resulting from the envelope specified for the site, the unified form of the building maximizes the allocated floor area while exploring the sculptural potential of the zoning law. A large front facade faces the main street and houses the heart of the building, and a low rear facade faces the garden where a more intimate scale defines the surrounding neighborhood. With 11 floors above ground and 5 floors below ground level, the completed building comprises more than 8,000 square meters.
A cultural anchor open to the city. The building expresses the difference and openness despite, or rather because of its airtight street side. A cutout in the plinth invites visitors from the street to the main hall and the intimate garden, open to the public at all times. At the entrance, a column wrapped in a seamless LED screen acts as a pretty lantern announcing current shows and another place to showcase artistic content.
On the west side of the building, the car ramp is treated as a sculptural volume. The curve of the descending ramp cuts an opening in the ceiling of the underground exhibition space, connecting this gallery below to the activity, sound and light at street level. With its concrete walls, this cave-like space contrasts with the reflective silver leaf finishes that line the interior of the ramp and the parking space below. The ramp wraps around a triple height void and defines the geometry of the grand staircase that serves as both a threshold and auditorium space for screenings and lectures, leading to the galleries on the second floor. An experimental and unexpected mix of artistic, office and public spaces unfolds above and below ground, creating a new urban complex that invites the public to engage in contemporary art in Seoul.
“Hidden Pine Tree”: a face for SONGEUN. Enhancing the continuous surface of the facade, the building is only cut by a few decisive openings. Two tall vertical windows perforate the southern facade and create framed views of the city. A triangular opening extends between levels 3-8 to the east, while the rear is almost entirely glazed behind a layer of balconies which bring light and air into the offices.
The concrete mass not only carries the whole structure, but also defines all the spaces and ornamental surfaces. Using larch plywood planks turned into a 1 by 1 meter grid, the concrete facade is printed with wood grain patterns and expresses the meaning of the SONGEUN name: “Hidden Pine”. This unique texture invites the eye and the hand to explore its different qualities, bringing the building’s urban presence to a human tactile scale.