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TYPE: Design Project

LOCATION: Incheon, South Korea

YEAR: 2023



Strange Works Studio

Terrain Work

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Incheon’s Metropolitan City Municipality and its Housing & City Development Corporation sought to construct a cultural complex integrating museum and library programming as a cultural landmark for the Geomdan New Town in the outskirts of Seoul’s metropolitan expansion in South Korea. The project brief sought to establish a museum to exhibit excavated historical relics of the region, as well as the construction of a new public library to address the expansion of its collection. The site of this new cultural complex is located at the corner of a large public park lake which serves as a critical ecological access point to the adjacent historical mountain ranges of the region. Through the synergy of library, museum & landscape, the client was interested in creating a cultural landmark in which knowledge, history, people, technology, and environment are harmonized by merging material culture (museum) and archival culture (library) representative of Incheon’s regional culture and ecologies.

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We propose not a building in a park and not a series of discrete, sculptural edifices. Rather, inspired by the Korean Valley Section and the complex interactions of diverse ecological zones in a natural environment, our proposal is imagined as a multilayered border condition that mediates between repositories for three distinct forms of information – the library (recorded information), the museum (cultural objects embedded with information), and the landscape (biological information). We propose a synergizing framework of programmatic layers that will allow residents to enjoy, value, and celebrate Incheon Geomdan’s intellectual, historical, and biological inheritance.





The spatial layers of the project form a gateway – emblematic of the city of Incheon. The spatial layers of the project gradually transition from the regular grid of the new city and the organic qualities of Incheon Geomdan’s green network. At the same time, these spatial layers operate as avenues of movement, both interior and exterior, that link programs and the landscape bridges on either side of the site. The layers gradually disaggregate from the most rigid and continuous (forming an urban edge) to the most dispersed and organic along the lake park. Residents are free to move both along these layers or through them.

Each layer is conceived as a border with complex morphology to maximize engagement between the different programmatic layers. Programs and experiences within the building are organized following these layers and correspond with different ways of acquiring and storing knowledge. The outermost layer contains a series of boxes where information is either stored or passively experienced, the middle zone contains programs where knowledge is acquired through direct engagement with cultural education activities, while the innermost layer allows unstructured engagement

with landscape activities such as a living laboratory and botanical garden.

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The form and tectonics of the project are guided by the theme of layers and transition from the southwest corner toward the northeast interior, forming a sectional analogue of the Korean Valley Section. Programmatic masses which form the block perimeter are constructed of prefabricated concrete components and evoke a sense of massiveness and heaviness like the bedrock of the landscape or the stony quality of Korea’s mountains. Themes of layering are embedded in this section. Patterns on prefabricated concrete walls evoke sedimentary layers- the urban edge of the project is lifted up- we are beneath the landscape where we uncover a treasure box of relics which gradually accumulates in step with construction of the new city.

Moving inward toward the park, the strategy shifts toward a steel system of planes and tube columns that evoke a sense of lightness, recalling the tectonics of wood construction and historical construction methods of human habitation – the geomantic qualities of inhabiting a zone between mountain and water. These zones are open- while the exhibition spaces are inward looking, the slab and column zone fosters openness, experience, complex interaction, and views of the landscape. Continuing inward toward the park, an uneven edge is formed between slab pavilion and landscape – a changeable riparian zone of complex interaction between land and water.

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The project creates an ecology of knowledge and culture through the exchange of information between the museum, library, and the landscape. The landscape is designed both as a place for civic recreation and gathering as well as an outdoor laboratory highlighting three distinctive ecosystems found in Korea: the riparian zone, broadleaf forest, and coniferous forest. Located at the center of the cultural campus, the riparian zone serves as a giant sponge that collects stormwater from the rooftops and paved surfaces of the library and museum. The water level in the riparian zone is dynamic, rising and falling with the intensity and frequency of storm events through the year. The riparian zone habitat is one of the most diverse found on earth with an extremely high ratio of types of species to area. Plants such as sedges, forbes, and other herbaceous perennials can thrive in wet conditions and serve as food and cover for wildlife. Climbing up the terraces of the cultural campus, visitors encounter remnants of two other distinctive ecosystems in a broadleaf forest and coniferous forest. Trees such as native Korean oaks and birch provide shady enclaves for patrons to enjoy panoramic views of the adjacent lake. Finally, in the smaller terraces that connect the museum experience visitors encounter intimate gardens dominated by red pine that is indicative of the Korean Peninsula and its mountainous regions.

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Drawing on the strength and resiliency of complex natural systems, our proposal aspires to a framework of redundancy and flexibility that can accommodate diverse spatial requirements, and can be expanded in the future. These ends are achieved through the pervasive use of precast components and a modular spatial order. Further, by taking advantage of prefabricated steel and concrete construction methods, the project seeks to minimize on-site labor thereby reducing overall construction costs.

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