Summer in Seoul

This is the twentieth post in a group series called #ArchiTalks in which Bob Borson of Life of an Architect gives a group of us architects a theme or a set of questions and we all have to post our response… this month’s theme: “Summer”.

One of the newer Korean apartment towers. This isn't even Seoul!

One of the newer Korean apartment towers. This isn't even Seoul!

Last summer, we had a baby. Sometimes we call our projects babies, but last summer we really had a physical living baby. Since both of our parents live in Korea, they have been eagerly awaiting their grandson (even though they've seen him at least once since birth last summer) as we prepared to travel to Korea. 

The picture at the beginning of this post is from our base in Ilsan. It's a "suburb" of Seoul but actually a pretty large city in it of itself – as you can see from the photo. It's not photoshopped, that is the real deal. 50 story plus apartment towers. This happens to be the tallest apartment in Ilsan, but more are on the way. Apartment tower life is the norm in Korea, especially in larger metropolitan areas. 

Apartment towers are the norm in Korea. I told you so. And again, this isn't even Seoul.

Apartment towers are the norm in Korea. I told you so. And again, this isn't even Seoul.

Korea is a fast-changing cultural destination. Buildings, retailers, shops, people come and go. Stores literally close overnight to rebrand themselves or open as another store entirely in a matter of days. Permit drawings are submitted over the internet and reviewed in a matter of days, if not hours. Mornings start early, people play late. 

Restaurant row near our home base in Ilsan. Bright lights, all, night, long... no matter what day of the week.

Restaurant row near our home base in Ilsan. Bright lights, all, night, long... no matter what day of the week.

We had a chance to visit the d gallery (actually in Seoul), a subsidiary gallery of Daelim Museum in Hannamdong, Seoul. The d gallery is an up and coming area that used to be more known for its U.N. Village where many foreigners reside. We happened to catch Thomas Heatherwick's exhibition at the d3 and enjoyed the audio tour guide of his works. Being from the Silicon Valley, we wanted to see more details of the B.I.G. collaboration on the Google campus, but that wasn't to be found. Still top secret stuff we suppose.

Here are some scale models and sketches from Heatherwick of the signature chairs. They had some full size ones at the end of the exhibition for us to try out. Great fun, impeccable balance. 

Here are some scale models and sketches from Heatherwick of the signature chairs. They had some full size ones at the end of the exhibition for us to try out. Great fun, impeccable balance. 

We also wanted to see for ourselves the highly critiqued DDP by the late Zaha Hadid. When we asked our friends and family about the building, we got mostly negative responses back saying that the building didn't fit in with its surroundings and that it looked like a spaceship had landed.

For us, the initial impression was respect. Respect for not only a great architect who has passed, but respect for the curves and the way in which a foreign architect was able to keep the quality pristine. The metal panels laid across the forms are pure art, to be admired.

Notice the sleek exterior metal panels. They're all precisely aligned and held off the structure in a consistent manner. Some panels larger, some smaller, some perforated for venting, exhaust, intake, etc. 

Notice the sleek exterior metal panels. They're all precisely aligned and held off the structure in a consistent manner. Some panels larger, some smaller, some perforated for venting, exhaust, intake, etc. 

I think the majority of people don't understand how big a deal this is; how hard this is to accomplish. Yet, when visiting the site, we only saw positive reactions and responses from visitors and users. 

As far as we could tell, everyone at the DDP was soaking it in and enjoying it. We're so glad we got to visit it as you can't critique this project without having been, and experienced it.

As far as we could tell, everyone at the DDP was soaking it in and enjoying it. We're so glad we got to visit it as you can't critique this project without having been, and experienced it.

Unfortunately, the galleries were closed for new exhibits to be put up, but we did get a chance to walk some of the other public areas inside and out. We highly recommend at least paying a visit when visiting Seoul. 

Speaking of curves, when we worked in Seoul, our office did a building with some curves of its own near Gwanghwamun and Gyeongbokgung Palace. It's called the TT building, or the Twin Tree Towers. The form was inspired by tree trunks and is covered in glazing. 

The TT buildings, or the Twin Tree Towers. Very noticeable when visiting the main palace in Seoul and walking by the large public plaza. 

The TT buildings, or the Twin Tree Towers. Very noticeable when visiting the main palace in Seoul and walking by the large public plaza. 

We also spent a few days in the countryside of Korea in a farm town between Seoul and Daejeon called Jincheon. One of our favorite things to do in Korea is to visit the public markets. 

Most of the public markets look very similar. Long open corridors with shops to the left and right, with sidewalk vendors, including a strip of vendors down the center. This is how Koreans used to do all their shopping; for groceries, clothes, household goods, etc.

Most of the public markets look very similar. Long open corridors with shops to the left and right, with sidewalk vendors, including a strip of vendors down the center. This is how Koreans used to do all their shopping; for groceries, clothes, household goods, etc.

On this day, we came not only to observe and soak in, but also to buy some mixed grains and beans. Add them to rice, and you have a healthy, delicious base to your meals.

On this day, we came not only to observe and soak in, but also to buy some mixed grains and beans. Add them to rice, and you have a healthy, delicious base to your meals.

Another favorite building of ours is also a past work from our old office. This is the Camerata Music Listening Hall, by Byoung Soo Cho. The client was a famous Korean TV news broadcast announcer who retired in an art village called Heyri and wanted a space to listen to classical music and share it with others.

Byoung Soo Cho uses a simple palette of materials consisting of exposed concrete, wood, and metal. The exterior structure is beautifully exposed concrete with great detail in the formwork that makes you wonder what goes on in the inside. 

Byoung Soo Cho uses a simple palette of materials consisting of exposed concrete, wood, and metal. The exterior structure is beautifully exposed concrete with great detail in the formwork that makes you wonder what goes on in the inside. 

Once you step inside, you're welcomed into a warm listening hall filled with wooden tables, a wooden soffit, and speakers galore. The client spins his LP records from the far right rear corner for guests of the hall. 

Once you step inside, you're welcomed into a warm listening hall filled with wooden tables, a wooden soffit, and speakers galore. The client spins his LP records from the far right rear corner for guests of the hall. 

Another treat for us this time around was visiting our old co-workers that have also gone off to open their own practices. We visited two of our close friends who have begun an exciting new office and already have several notable projects in the books and realized. 

This is Archihood WXY, Woohyun and Youngjin Kang. 

This is Archihood WXY, Woohyun and Youngjin Kang. 

Another quick picture of their office space very much influenced by our old office led by Byoung Soo Cho. 

Another quick picture of their office space very much influenced by our old office led by Byoung Soo Cho. 

Another small gallery we visited in Seoul is the Kukje Gallery's newest addition, designed by SO-IL Architects. 

This building is wrapped in a perforated metal mesh over the forms of the building to create a fun play of light and shadows that are cast. While the main forms consist of boxes and cylinders, the metal mesh forms curves and a skin that protect and envelope the gallery.

This building is wrapped in a perforated metal mesh over the forms of the building to create a fun play of light and shadows that are cast. While the main forms consist of boxes and cylinders, the metal mesh forms curves and a skin that protect and envelope the gallery.

Kyu's old boss now also has an architecture gallery called "onground". 

The "onground" gallery. Humble and normal looking storefront is the entrance to a lovely gallery of beautiful architectural projects and miniature gallery spaces.

The "onground" gallery. Humble and normal looking storefront is the entrance to a lovely gallery of beautiful architectural projects and miniature gallery spaces.

The same storefront from the inside of the gallery. Simple, minimal, clean, but intricate, well thought out, and full of fantastic projects.

The same storefront from the inside of the gallery. Simple, minimal, clean, but intricate, well thought out, and full of fantastic projects.

Here is a little courtyard after you enter into the gallery. Lovely little outdoor space for a breath of fresh air, recomposition, and experience of natural light within a building.

Here is a little courtyard after you enter into the gallery. Lovely little outdoor space for a breath of fresh air, recomposition, and experience of natural light within a building.

The MMCA Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul has also just opened a new building recently. One of the exhibits featured the Young Architects Program that is in partnership with the MoMA PS1 program for young architects in New York.

It was an honor to see the projects by other young architects in Korea. 

It was an honor to see the projects by other young architects in Korea. 

A view from the current courtyard folly – the folly in the foreground, the museum building to the right and middle-ground, with the old traditional structure in the very background. 

A view from the current courtyard folly – the folly in the foreground, the museum building to the right and middle-ground, with the old traditional structure in the very background. 

In closing, we leave you with two pictures of the Shanghai Expo project that Thomas Heatherwick designed. This is the scale section model that shows the needle-like fiberglass tubes that carry the inventory of the seeds of the world. The interior is very surreal and fluid womb, while the exterior is like a porcupine or sea urchin eager to protect itself.

Summer is a great time to travel, recharge, explore, and learn. Cheers, to Summer in Seoul.

Now check out the other blogs that have featured posts around the same #ArchiTalks topic about summer:

Enoch Sears - Business of Architecture (@businessofarch)
Summer is a Great Time To Market Your Architecture Firm!


Bob Borson - Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
http://www.lifeofanarchitect.com/summer-is-for-the-young-at-heart/


Marica McKeel - Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
Summer : A Review


Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
summer working, had me a blast


Evan Troxel - Archispeak Podcast / TRXL (@etroxel)
Lake Powell


Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Seasons of Summer


Jes Stafford - MODwelling (@modarchitect)
The Dog Days of Summer


Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Summer -- Architecture Imagery


Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
#Architalks 20 "summer" and architecture


Stephen Ramos - BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
4 Secrets To Getting The Most Out Of Your Summer Internship


Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Summer Surprise


Michael LaValley - Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
An Acrophobic Architect's Illuminating Summer of Roofs


Sharon George - Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
Glass in Architecture - Summer Wonders


Brinn Miracle - Architangent (@architangent)
4 Reasons Solar Power is a Hot Topic


Emily Grandstaff-Rice - Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Seasonal change


Jarod Hall - di'velept (@divelept)
... and the livin's easy


Drew Paul Bell - Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
Summer...


Samantha Raburn - The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
An Architectural Spark for your Summer


Keith Palma - Architect's Trace (@cogitatedesign)
[Dis]Connected Summer


Adam Denais - Defragging Architecture (@DefragArch)
5 Things to Make the Most of Your Summer


Jim Mehaffey - Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
An Architect Summer


Jeffrey A Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Do I Need to Hire an Architect?

p.s. Let us know if you're interested in visiting Korea! 

p.s. Let us know if you're interested in visiting Korea!