EWHA Campus Complex | publication

EWHA Campus Complex | Seoul, South Korea

Icon Magazine published in its August issue a review by Bert de Muynck | MovingCities on the EWHA Campus Complex (Seoul, South Korea), designed by Dominique Perrault Architecture. Icon Magazine just recently published this contribution online.

Recently, at the Seoul Design Olympiad 2008, Daniel Libeskind expressed his concerns about the future development of Seoul. As with a lot of urban discussions Libeskind tried to engage with during the past years (post 9/11 New York, the role of foreign architects in China) his remarks on Seoul are none less than a series of architectural and urban platitudes disguised a critical concerns. Not that it is not relevant to state that “Seoul needs to be developed. It needs a breakthrough in innovation and architecture to shed old notions and really create new neighbourhoods and iconic places” (Daniel Libeskind in Building Design, October 13, 2008) but a little knowledge on the state of affairs would be welcome to push the architectural development further, instead of trying to pull architectural commissions in his direction.

EWHA Campus Complex | Seoul, South Korea

In my review I tried to stay away from analyzing the EWHA Campus Complex as an icon – and without a shadow of a doubt the project re-establishes a new relations between the neighbourhood and the campus – but more in the light of the architectural ambition to merge a building with a hill, thereby questioning both the conceptual and architectural and landscape quality of what I call a ‘hillding’.

Despite Perrault’s insistence on creating a perfect balance between landscape and architecture, there is one important aspect of this “hillding” that fails to weave these aspects together. In spite of the light streaming into the underground space, with no entrances to the building on the roofscape – except for the elevator – there is little correspondence between exterior and interior. The slanted roof and the warped mirror effect of the steel fins distort the interior perspective, limiting the visual link with the landscape. And the remarkable spatial quality of the void can only really be experienced from the outside.

EWHA Campus Complex | Seoul, South Korea

The project is the result of a competition and the program consists out of an academic area (learning and project space, libraries, cafeteria), administration and commercial area (cinema, theatre, shops as well as external sporting spaces and car parks). More on the project, a description and pictures can be found on the EWHA Campus Complex page on the website of Dominique Perrault Architecture. The “hillding” aspires to explore, due to it size, in its architecture a balance between inside and outside, thereby being an example of the notion of “underground space” Dominique Perrault has been dealing with in his career. When I interviewed him, he explained this to me as follows:

The space is very impressive and emotional,” he says. “Normally people tend to get nervous when they enter underground space, but not in this building – it is not a closed and heavy space. To me this is a paradox because in the ECC there is a certain smoothness of the architecture, and at the same time you create a building that is both landscape and architecture. As a large building it fits well in its environment.”

EWHA Campus Complex | Seoul, South Korea

During the short trip to Seoul (June, 2008) I took the time to explore the city, a journey which brought me to the area around Dongdaemun and Sinseol-dong, some locations nearby the subway stops of Seoul’s Inner Circle Line and the Jongo Tower – Rafael Viñoly Architects, 1999 – a masterpiece of the almost lost craft of high-tech architecture.

Pictures by Bert de Muynck | movingcities.org

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FULL TEXT “Ewha Campus Complex, Seoul” by Bert de Muynck
Published in Icon Magazine #062 August, 2008

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