Buk Seoul Museum of Art by Samoo Architects & Engineers

Photo credit: Young Chae Park

Cultural parks in the urban landscape, urban parks in the cultural landscape

Located in the north-eastern region of Seoul at Junggye-dong, Nowon-gu, the Buk Seoul Museum of Art provides a welcome respite from the endless concrete slabs of high-rise apartments surrounding the green space. Samoo Architects and Engineers envisioned a green hill with outdoor trails melding into gallery spaces for nearby residents to easily access and appreciate culture. The artificial landscape resembles the nearby Suraksan and Bulamsan Mountains, and was inspired by the region’s name, Nowon, meaning “a hill covered with reeds”. The museum covers a total of 17,113 sq.m. over 6 floors (including 3 basement levels) and seeks to offer a range of exhibitions and events to cater to and engage various groups in the community.

Against the towering backdrops of the mountains and apartment blocks, the low-rise landscape of the museum presents a less intimidating presence by combining the hardscapes of the building’s edges and paths with softscapes, blending in with the Deungnamu Neighourhood Park it lies adjacent to. The integration of greenery into the roof and slopes helps to extend the park space and create a more accessible image for the museum by assuming the elements usually associated with parks: that of play and relaxation. The inclusion of a Sculpture Park within the site serves to further naturalise the idea of arts and culture in the daily lives of the residents, so that exposure can be generated even without visitors intentionally stepping into the gallery spaces. From users walking along the street to residents looking into the site from their apartment blocks, the museum acts as a green node which naturally draws attention towards itself.

Buk Seoul Museum of Art by Samoo Architects & Engineers

Photo credit: Young Chae Park

Spatial segregation for cultural integration

The programmes within the building are vertically segregated according to their target audience: multi-purpose and educational facilities are located in the basement for local residents to be directly involved in collaborative projects. The first floor features easy access to the library, multimedia facility and exhibition hall for children and teenagers, while the upper levels contain the gallery spaces and rooftop gardens which open out on to the outdoor sculpture park. Exhibition spaces are located across several floors around a naturally-lit central atrium. The programmatic functions are split with energy and noise levels peaking at the bottom levels, where the spaces for community involvement and collaboration and youth quarters are located. As social activity is focused on the other instead of to the surroundings, the spaces for such social activity like collaborative work is restricted to the basement levels, while the more restrained and individual activity happens at the upper levels in the gallery spaces, which then flow visually and spatially out onto the roof gardens.

Buk Seoul Museum of Art by Samoo Architects & Engineers

Photo credit: Young Chae Park

Buk Seoul Museum of Art by Samoo Architects & Engineers

1st Storey Plan

Using vertical sectioning to segregate spaces is an effective and straightforward way to divide functions that have different spatial qualities, especially when the space is bound to a compact site that has a focus on open spaces. It mitigates the potential for conflicts to arise when different users occupy the space, as each level contains the noise and activity within to prevent spillovers and clashes. Visibility relates inversely and decreases between levels. However, as the events organised by the museum are tailored specifically to each target group, the need for a strong visual connection is unnecessary. It may be more beneficial to make the spaces visually permeable to visitors outside, so that they may be aware of the ongoings indoors and be drawn to the liveliness of the site. The ground level spaces would offer the easiest access into the museum and is designated for children and teenagers, highlighting the museum’s keen interest in attracting the young with its programmes.

 Greenery as Liveability

As a museum, the integration of the park into the site seems to add value to the space, creating a delightful environment of an open plaza and garden terraces nestled among the harshness of a dense concrete city. This duality of function – having a park and community building on the same site – offers strong advantages in overcrowded and dense cities. It is an expression of the Garden City ideal of situating habitats within natural environs to improve liveability. What if an entire city could recreate the lush, verdant conditions of a park? This is perhaps the premise behind Singapore’s new push from a Garden City to a City in a Garden. However, a park with a building plopped into the middle of it subtracts from the value of the park instead. True harmony with nature would entail minimal building, though it is hard to quantify the proportion of building to open space. Also, the definition of a park need not be constrained to greenery and nature, as an urban park can comprise hard edges and surfaces as well. At the Buk Seoul Museum of Art, the introduction of the roofscape and the open plaza somewhat reduces the dominance of the built form on the site.

Buk Seoul Museum of Art by Samoo Architects & Engineers

Photo credit: Young Chae Park

Pushing a Cultural Agenda Through Parks

Public parks are places accessible to everyone, by virtue of their being free to enter in most cities. With the almost universal human desire to be in nature and daylight, they appeal to a majority of people as well. By imbuing parks with another layer of activity -namely, the cultural space – the museum gains this perception of access and openness that is necessary in bringing the arts and culture to the masses. Because culture tends to be known only as the high-brow arts of opera or ballet, for example, the demographic skews towards the middle- to higher-income groups who can afford the pricey tickets for an evening of classical repertoire. Cultural institutions like the opera houses of Europe were seen as the place to be for high society to dress up and mingle. Bringing the arts space into the residential neighbourhoods sends a signal that the arts can literally be part of one’s everyday life. With park space already an established public good, the addition of cultural facilities can siphon off some of that friendly image and provide citizens with a space for cultural appreciation and expression at the grassroots level.

 

References:

  1. “Buk Seoul Museum of Art / Samoo Architects &Engineers” 28 Jul 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 02 Mar 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=406753>
  2. “Seoul Museum of Art (SeMA)”. Seoul Metropolitan Government. Accessed 02 Mar 2014. <http://sema.seoul.go.kr/global/information/information_5.jsp>
  3. “From Garden City to City in a Garden”. Ministry of National Development Singapore. Accessed 03 Mar 2014. <http://www.mnd.gov.sg/MNDAPPImages/About%20Us/From%20Garden%20City%20to%20City%20in%20a%20Garden.pdf>