Lee Seung Hwan studied landscape architecture and architecture at Seoul National University and started professional career at Aterlier 17 and Haeahn Architecture. After moving to London in 2009 and receiving MA degree at London Metropolitan University, he worked as a BIM specialist at Tony Meadows Associates. He returned to Korea in 2014 and founded IDR Architects with Jun Borim. He has been teaching design studios and digital tectonic classes at Korea National University of Arts from 2014..
Jun Borim studied sculpture and architecture at Seoul National University and started professional career at M.A.R.U.. After moving to London in 2009 and receiving MA degree at London Metropolitan University, she lead several projects at Smal & Partners and Young In Architects. She returned to Korea in 2014 and founded IDR Architects with Lee Seung Hwan. She taught the Basic Design Studio at Korea National University of Arts in 2014.
Forest of Books and White Condenser
Yoo Myounghee(professor, University of Ulsan)
Forest of Books: Transforming Abandoned Edges into a Continuation of Everyday Life.
Many of the residents of Buk-gu in Ulsan Metropolitan City are working for small and medium-sized suppliers for Hyundai Motors and they are relatively younger than those of other regions. The local government has improved its previously poor settlement environment and expanded on its public facilities at a consistent rate, such as the creation of a community library to improve local quality of life. The new Maegok Library is one of the results of these efforts.
The library is located on a narrow and long strip of land on a natural green area, divided into a sharp and unconventional shape by the Autovalley-ro. This area has lain neglected, situated on the border between the Maegok industrial complex and a residential area in Buk-gu. The front of the site faces the Maegok Stream and on the land between the back of the site and Maegok-ro there is a 20-metre-wide road which is occupied by un-urbanized parcels, such as a gas station typically found in the outskirts of such urban fringes.
The architects of the Maegok Library noticed that the site, on its north-south axis, had a gentle slope with topographic potential. ‘A walk with the family through a forest of books’ was the main design theme applied to the library, and has been realised as a system of order and circulation between the inside and outside of the library, based on the slope of 1/12 by properly manipulating the land slope. The long site is divided into four sections from one end to the other: an entrance garden, the library, a rear garden, and parking lots, and they are interwoven by a progressive connecting line penetrating both inside and outside of the building along the gradually rising floor corresponding to the natural slope and the main facade.
The theme ‘Forest of Books’ is also materialized in the simple but also complex façade strategy, which is informed by the metaphor, the ‘Wood of the Forest’. The use of exposed concrete with a vertical pine board pattern and the vertical aluminium louvers of wood patterned coatings on the building skin create an exterior look defined by the parameters of area segments, angles and spacing. Thicknesses and widths are produced when considering various angles of approach and interaction from the interior. One can experience the natural verticality of the complicated façade, and it changes continuously according to the variables of time, sunshine, climate, subject and speed.
White Condenser: Condensing Intellectual Experience and Interaction
A clue to the site and its surroundings reaching this incline along the longer side is given by the fact that it is interwoven with the divisions along the shorter side. The slope extends into the interior through the book café, lobby, and reading room, and stretches around the children’s reading room with a repeated flow and pause. The loop of the ramp not only overlaps programmes but also organises a loose and flexible bodily experience, blurring pauses and movement in its connection to the three levels of the children’s reading room on the inside, as well as the infants reading room, courtyard, programme room, digital reading room, and a general reference library made of large and small volumes. As a result, the entire area of the library can be perceived as a single vibrating mass around the children’s reading room at the centre. The white film is integrated throughout ten circular columns in the children’s reading room and the bookshelf and a thick parapet wall succeeds in creating a simple balance between concentration and openness while encountering the contrast between the high ceiling at the centre and the relatively low height of the ramp. The proper balance devised between concentration and openness achieves a multi-sensory effect that disperses throughout collective and individual experiences, while also presenting the centripetal and centrifugal characteristics throughout the space of the library. The white staircase, standing calmly at the centre of the children’s reading room, acts as a device to remind us of the façade of a square in a small hillside town and accelerates the dynamics of the ramp with a gentle circulation and the flow of views. The mise-en-scene, which reveals the centre of the library from both inside and outside, may have intended to give the impression of multiple identities, both as an individual and as a village resident. The landing of the central stairway plays the special role of a so-called canopy, that vertically articulates the tall space, and we can observe from the stairs below that it has already became a favourite among the children and a preferred space.
Although the design of the interior atmosphere may be distracting, due to the radial circulation, the careful selection of white to avoid paleness, of a off-centred skylight above the west ramp and of an introverted design of the windows around the eastern courtyard all contribute to an overall atmosphere of calm. This creates the necessary inward concentration of a library as opposed to encouraging an outward stare. In contrast to the openness of the large children’s reading room, the library seems to have many hiding places. Positioning the tree in the courtyard at their eye-level, the children compete with each other to take one of the window sofa seats, and a few men are taking a nap on the window bench by the digital reading room.
My first visit to the library vaguely reminded me of the phrase ‘heart of the village’, particularly when I saw the perspective view of a children’s reading room like a square and white cave with a high ceiling of a proper size, not too big or small for a neighbourhood library. I could imagine that the children in the village will grow here, establishing a ‘schema’ as a place to read books well into the future.
Beginning with the village and reaching the site across the Maegok Stream, ‘Forest of Books’ has been inserted into the building and completed by the open reading room which is a resonant place for children and adults, reading and play, sincerity and fun, quietness and turmoil, individuals and groups. If we think of a social condenser as a promoter of overlapping programmes and of the dynamic coexistence of activities, and of a generator as creating an unprecedented concurrence of events, the library can already be called a white condenser that can condense and emit the potential interactivity of a village.
The slope extends into the interior through the book cafe, lobby, and reading room, and stretches around the children’s reading room with a repeated flow and pause.
The proper balance devised between concentration and openness achieves a multi-sensory effect that disperses throughout collective and individual experiences, while also presenting the centripetal and centrifugal characteristics throughout the space of the library.
The Change of the Village by Maegok Library
The original plan of the library answered the questions that came to mind when I first visited, and I confirmed that it was changed due to practical issues, such as budgeting problems in the design process. For example, the long louver façade along the long side was somewhat shortened due to the change of the location of the AV room and the shape of rear square in the construction documents, which weakened its linear proportions compared to that of the original. The changes to service vehicle access from the first-floor level to the second floor, according to the topography of the rear side, left the service entrance halfway between the indoor ramp, which is a minor functional mistake acceptable for a community library.
I can’t agree with their attitude of concentrating on the façade and leaving the rear elevation to the east without expression. This area had its own character in the original design. As the disordered parcels at the rear may be rearranged in the future, and the boundary lines and approach from the neighbouring region could be altered, I wish it could have had a minimal expression at least. Although it leaves something to be desired, this library is on the whole wise and appropriate in its appearance.
The changes to everyday life in the village prompted by the Maegok Library can be noted in two cheerful shadows of mother and son waving at an empty eco-bag after returning books on their way to the riverside in the late afternoon. Sooner or later, ‘Forest of Books’ will expand across the neighbourhood and the everyday life of residents will be much better connected to the library, and the audience will grow with the increase of the population in the nearby new apartment complex, the maintenance of the Maegok Stream riverside and pedestrian path, and the construction of the pedestrian bridge connecting the library to the residences and Maegok middle and high school. The evolution of a community library begins now.
Yoo Myounghee is a professor of architecture at University of Ulsan and a registered architect of Korea. After graduating from Hongik University, she earned her master’s degree and PhD from the same university. She has continued using her PhD theme, ‘The correlation between the principles of self-organization and space design in contemporary architecture’ as the central theme of her practice and research. She has been studying the working principle of architectural space and process-oriented design methodology, centring on actor experience in the various built environment projects such as play, learning, village, and urban projects.
One can experience the natural verticality of the complicated façade, and it changes continuously according to the variables of time, sunshine, climate, subject and speed.
Architect: IDR Architects (Lee Seung Hwan, Jun Borim)
Design team: Choi Jeongseok, Cha Juhyup, Jung Dongwook, Seo Sehee, Lee You Me
Location: 138-19 Maegok-ro, Buk-gu, Ulsan, Korea
Programme: public library
Site area: 3,787㎡
Building area: 731.34㎡
Gross floor area: 2,103.77㎡
Building scope: B1, 3F
Building to land ratio: 19.31%
Floor area ratio: 43.80%
Structure:: reinforced concrete
Exterior finishing: aluminium louver, board formed concrete, exterior insulation finishing system
Interior finishing: water based paint on concrete, aluminium louver ceiling
Structural engineer: Harmony Structural Engineering
Mechanical and electrical engineer: Hana Consulting Engineers
Construction: Migun Construction
Design period: Aug. 2015 – Feb. 2016
Construction period: Apr. 2016 – Apr. 2017
Client: Ulsan Buk-gu
edited by Park Sungjin | photographed by Chun Youngho | materials provided by IDR Architects