Architecture that Fits in While Standing Out | Korea

yongsan international business district Block-H

Developing architecture that folds into the urban fabric of any city can be challenging as creating of a street presence while contextualising a building to ensure it fits in with its surroundings is a difficult, and sometimes contradictory process.

Architectural firm Kohn Pedersen Fox associates (KPF) are aiming to overcome this challenge with their proposal for ‘Block H’, a five-star hotel and serviced living space in the Yongsan International Business District of Seoul, Korea.

“Our goal for this project is to establish and make connections to street life, the new city of Yongsan, and to the larger context of Seoul,” says KPF design principle Trent Tesch. “We do this through a thoughtful approach to the building’s program, position, and character.”

The positioning element to which Tesch refers plays a key role throughout the concept. The architectural plan hones in on the idea of contextualising a building through a visual connection to its urban surroundings.

It is for this reason that the tower spans across three distinct wings, its cascading form allowing for natural light to be optimised in every room with all guest rooms receiving a large corner view of the surrounding area. The tower is built in a location that offers views of the Han River, Yongsan Park, the Nam Sam historic district and surrounding buildings.

yongsan international business district Block-H

Standing 385 metres tall, Block H has been designed to sit comfortably in terms of scale within the city skyline. With surrounding buildings reaching as high as the 665 metre tall commercial tower, and as low as low-rise residential blocks, the designers chose not to weight all of the building’s repute on its height, seeking instead to build its character from its ability to blend into the city.

While it is expected to blend in, the tower has not been designed to be a wallflower. The façade of the building transitions from stone to metal vertically, with the textures reflecting light and offering an overall aesthetic that serves as a fusion of harsh angularity and modern sleekness.

Functionally, the tower has been planned to further include a casino, retail space, a spa, a large banquet hall and associated amenities.

yongsan international business district Block-H close up

Fitting into the urban fold is just as important as standing out. Buildings are not singular in their effect, combining to make up the overall urban aesthetic. While the Block H aesthetic has drawn both positive and negative responses, the design ideology under which it was developed is to be commended for its commitment to the greater city aesthetic.

By Emily D’Alterio
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