SOUTH KOREA- Dongdaemun, one of the largest commercial districts in Korea, will have its new face revealed with the opening of the latest masterpiece by star architect Zaha Hadid, in an ambitious Seoul Metropolitan Government project to establish a design and cultural hub in the capital.
The Dongdaemun Design Plaza and Park will be unveiled in March amid anticipation that the new flashy building and its adjacent public park will attract citizens much like Korea's first sports stadium originally located on the site did.
The project has not progressed without hitting snags all the way since it kicked off in 2007. Initially planned by former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, the project faced a possible indefinite delay under the current mayor and has undergone major design changes after historical artifacts were discovered under the construction site.
The grandiose and futuristic design, unfamiliar in the Korean cityscape, has caused much debate in the architecture community. Many architects said the design barely reflected the history and charms of Dongdaemun.
Despite criticism, the DDP has set a good example as an innovative modern structure using state-of-the art digital technology.
"Its design and construction sets many new standards of innovation. The DDP is the first public project in Korea to use three-dimensional digital construction administration services that ensure design and construction quality, including 3-D Building Information Modelling for construction management and engineering coordination. It is also the first project in Korea to use an adjustable 3-D molding process for the metal cladding panels and concrete formwork," said Zaha Hadid in an email interview with The Korea Herald.
The free-flowing curves on the exterior are created by 45,133 aluminium cladding panels that don't divide the structure at any angle. Inside, no pillars obstruct the view from any spot in exhibition halls. Walls and ceilings are curved and tilted, adding dynamism to the white empty space. The building also has rooftop gardens.
A military training site of the Joseon dynasty discovered at the construction site are incorporated as part of the new building without sacrificing the original design plan.
The 85,000-square-meter structure consists of five halls which will host major design events, exhibitions and conventions.
"The DDP is an important civic and cultural building that engages with the city and gives people a place to connect ― creating a public park and plaza that people can use as their own and allows the city to flow. Such public spaces are a vital component of a rich urban life and cityscape; they unite the city and tie the urban fabric together," said Hadid.