Architect at Play

Architect at Play

South Korean architect Moon Hoon describes himself as a “playful” designer. A building needs to honor the client’s desires and provide functional spaces, but ultimately, he seems to feel, architects just wanna have fun.

His SAI project is a very narrow structure wedged in between two buildings in Seoul. It began as a steel structure for a different building, but construction on that project was halted due to legal problems. The owners brought in Hoon to make something out of the existing steel.

The architect is quoted in

“It was a unique case; in the construction of a new building next to the client had made many illicit choices, causing the district government to intervene and to suggest a radically altered space. In between the existing building site and the newly built building, I built a structure that could be used as a green house.

“The metal structure of the building had already reached completion, and the husband and wife that had commissioned the project dreamed of a resting space full of greens. The major regulation was to ensure the walls to transmit at least 50% of the light, and based on the demand, I sought to find the right material that was interesting but stable. It was a coincidence that I found Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic grating, which met my needs.”

Hoon designed a series of floor decks suspended on cables from the steel framework above.   This is a departure from the conventional use of steel framing, where the horizontal steel members are used to support the floors.   Hoon’s floor levels bear no relationship to the outlines of the external steel superstructure.

Floor decks and walls are all made of white translucent fiberglass grid. The floor grids are fixed in steel frames that hang from the cables. The wall grids enclose three sides – one side of the building abuts an existing glass-facade building – and the roof. Glass windows, of varying sizes, are irregularly placed in the grid facade. There are also numerous fixtures that could be used for hanging plants.

Although the building has been described as a greenhouse, again, it is an unconventional one, in that the walls do not keep out the elements, so no option for temperature control is available. (The only spots sheltered from the wind are, ironically, places directly behind the glass windows.). It is space where you could grow things – 50% of the daylight penetrates the grid – but it’s not really a greenhouse in any other sense.

Hoon’s original drawing betrays a rather different program: it looks like a 70’s arcade game, a Donkey Kong-like structure with people playing at different levels. If greenery were distributed on its different floors, it would be like a multilevel park, potentially a stacked version of New York’s Highline.

Concept drawing for SAI project - imag

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