Herzog & de Meuron Makes South Korea Debut With New SongEun Art Space

ST SONGEUN Building, 2021 © Jihyun Jung. Image courtesy of SongEun Art and Cultural Foundation.
ST SONGEUN Building, 2021 © Jihyun Jung. Image courtesy of SongEun Art and Cultural Foundation.
ST SONGEUN Building, 2021. Image courtesy of SongEun Art and Cultural Foundation.
ST SONGEUN Building, 2021 © Jihyun Jung. Image courtesy of SongEun Art and Cultural Foundation.
ST SONGEUN Building, 2021 © Jihyun Jung. Image courtesy of SongEun Art and Cultural Foundation.
Installation view (B2/F), “Herzog & de Meuron. Exploring SongEun Art Space”, Seoul, 2021. Image courtesy and © Herzog & de Meuron and SongEun Art and Cultural Foundation.
Thomas Ruff, Sammlung Goetz, München, 1994, chromogenic colour print, Diasec face, wood frame, 188 x 297 cm. © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2021 [for Thomas Ruff]. Image courtesy of Herzog & de Meuron.
TOP
1521
47
0
 
21
Oct
21
Oct
KAF

For their first realised project in South Korea, the revered Swiss architect-duo Herzog & de Meuron brings their signature architectural language of geometric forms and innovative façade to SongEun’s brand new non-commercial art space.

TEXT: Kate Lok
IMAGES: Courtesy of various

 

ST SONGEUN Building, 2021 © Jihyun Jung. Image courtesy of SongEun Art and Cultural Foundation.

 

A project more than five years in the making, ST SONGEUN Building—ST International and non-profit SongEun Art and Cultural Foundation’s new home in Seoul—finally opened its doors on 28 September.

The country’s interest for contemporary artists has spiked in recent years; so has the need for a sizable exhibition space that allows experimentation with alternative formats and mediums beyond traditional hangings. In that regard, the new ST SONGEUN Building aspires to not only respond to the need for a new cultural landmark for the growing artist community in Seoul, but also to connect the wider public to art through exhibitions and public programmes.

The architecture and design of the building was helmed by coveted Swiss architect-duo Herzog & de Meuron, the masterminds behind some of the most famous contemporary museum designs in the world, among them London’s Tate, the Messe Basel in Switzerland, and Hong Kong’s soon-to-open M+ Museum, to name a few. Located in the heart of Chung Dam District, one of the busiest commercial and retail epicentres in southern Seoul, the new multi-functional art and culture space also neighbours some of the fanciest outposts of luxury brands, such as the Dolce & Gabbana flagship by Jean Nouvel, as well as the curvaceous Louis Vuitton Maison by Frank Gehry.

 

Architecture at the fore

“When I pass by the building in a car, [the building] has a sort of expression [of its own],” says Pierre de Meuron, who flew into Seoul to attend the opening. “It’s not the tallest, or the largest, but I think it has an aura, it expresses something different [from the neighbouring] shopping malls and office buildings. This has a concentration, much energy into the building, this building [gives off] this quality and density.”

Commissioned by the Foundation in 2016, this is Herzog & de Meuron’s first realised project in South Korea. “We wanted a building that is different, that is saying to people ‘Hey, I am quite dramatic’ at first glimpse,” says Jacques Herzog in a pre-recorded video at the opening press conference. The monolithic concrete structure stands like a sharp, triangular cliff on the highest point of Dosan Daero, reaching a total of 11 storeys with five floors underground, covering more than 8000 square metres of floor space for a mix of gallery spaces, offices and public areas.

 

ST SONGEUN Building, 2021. Image courtesy of SongEun Art and Cultural Foundation.

 

The choice of a slanted shape was intentional in order to comply with the country’s strict zoning law, while still being able to maximise the allotted floor area. And thus its form, while appearing in stark difference from the steel and glass boxes of the neighbourhood, does not compromise on functionality.

The taller end of the sloped building, reaching nearly 60 metres in height, faces the main street and houses the core functions, made visible through two long, narrow slits of windows on either end of the concrete plane. The shorter end faces an intimate garden space, which is connected to the main street through a cantilevered cut-out, and provides pedestrian access to the main lobby and the garden.

 

ST SONGEUN Building, 2021 © Jihyun Jung. Image courtesy of SongEun Art and Cultural Foundation.
ST SONGEUN Building, 2021 © Jihyun Jung. Image courtesy of SongEun Art and Cultural Foundation.

 

Entering from the west side of the building, a descending car ramp carves the shape of a circular open ceiling hovers over an underground exhibition space two floors below, illuminating what the architects referred to as the “sunken gallery”. “With this sunken space in SongEun, it may be able to invite artists to do things they may not have done with another gallery,” explains Herzog. “It offers a potential, an invitation…to offer totally different forms of work than what they’ve done before.” The exhibition spaces extend through a spiral staircase that traces the perimeter of the hollow interiors and leads upwards to the second-floor galleries.

While its angular form and uniform, concrete exterior appear formidable, upon closer inspection one will be able to discover the sensibility in the architecture. Using formwork that consists of thousands of square plywood boards, an intricate pattern of textured veins are imprinted on the concrete as it dries, adding a tactile quality to the otherwise stern structure. “It attracts you, the human eye, to discover the surface, the patterns that are printed on it,” explains Herzog. “Look closer and you will discover other surface qualities…and as soon as we are involved in this ‘game’ of discovering, [the concrete surface] loses its aspect of just being inhumane or hostile.” In fact, the wood motif is an ode to the meaning behind SongEun, the nom de plume of the Foundation’s late founder Sung-Yeon Yoo, which roughly translates to “hidden pine tree”.

 

Debut exhibition highlights the potential of the new space

Inaugurating the new space is an opening programme featuring an exhibition curated by Herzog & de Meuron in collaboration with the Foundation. As the title “Herzog & de Meuron. Exploring SongEun Art Space” suggests, the building itself serves as the main exhibit. “This is a very exciting challenge for us,” says Martin Knusel, partner at Herzog & de Meuron. “We designed the building, but then we also get to think of how to use the building. With [the exhibition] we try to activate the spaces and explore the possibilities.” Through drawings and documentation, the audience can experience the development of the project from its initial conception in Basel, Switzerland, to the strategies, tools and methods involved in the design and construction process. The exhibition also utilises resources and technologies, such as augmented reality, projections, and olfactory elements, to explore the potential for hosting different artistic media in the building.

 

Installation view (B2/F), “Herzog & de Meuron. Exploring SongEun Art Space”, Seoul, 2021. Image courtesy and © Herzog & de Meuron and SongEun Art and Cultural Foundation.
Thomas Ruff, Sammlung Goetz, München, 1994, chromogenic colour print, Diasec face, wood frame, 188 x 297 cm. © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 2021 [for Thomas Ruff]. Image courtesy of Herzog & de Meuron.

 

Elsewhere in the galleries, previous work by Herzog & de Meuron are showcased through a display of architectural models, as well as through the lens of Thomas Ruff’s photography. One of the highlights, as pointed out by de Meuron, goes to the video collaborations with Swiss artist Rémy Zaugg, which offer a conceptual insight into the human relationship with, and the realities of the built environment. Intersecting with Herzog & de Meuron’s show are specially commissioned works that respond to the building’s previous architectural site by Korean artists who have previously participated in the Foundation’s earlier projects.

 

 

 

 
Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply