Client: Myeongdong Cathedral
Date: 1996 Competition
The Myeong-Dong cathedral area in Seoul is the emblem of the Catholic Church and a symbol of democracy for Korea, being the site of students riots against the former dictatorship. The area surrounding the cathedral is the densest commercial area of Seoul, and the geographical centre of the city. The brief of the project required the design of a 35,000m2 area to include an urban public space, surrounding the Myeong-Dong Cathedral, as well as a large religious convention and cultural center, to be constructed in two phases.
The cathedral site borders very different conditions of an environmental, topographic and programmatic kind: the southern edge of the cathedral site is 11m higher than the northern edge, bordering the commercial street of Myeong-Dong; the eastern edge borders an elevated highway that is a major source of noise for the site; while the western edge borders a very incoherent urban fabric.
Our approach was to focus on the coincidence of multiple, often contradictory, qualities within one site: secular/religious, ephemeral/permanent, commercial/ritual, dynamic/static,…
The urban public space was proposed as a smooth topography, a slanted and deformed ground plane, adjusting to the different environmental, topographical and programmatic conditions within and around the site. The proposed surface would bridge the 11m difference in level between the commercial street and the plateau where the cathedral sits as a north-south transition; sloping up towards the west to protect the public space from acoustic intrusion from highway traffic; rising to the south and the east with a similar gradient, producing a conic surface, a shell-like plaza, where the different flows would tend to overlap, rather than be confined to restricted zones.
The same concept of integration is applied to the space of the convention hall below, where the different cultural and religious programs are grouped in such a way as to form an underground arena, a space that, with the provision of retractable seating and folding vertical planes, could expand or shrink from being the largest auditorium in Seoul (11,000 spectators) to being small-scale meeting rooms.