Kukje Gallery—K3, Seoul, South Korea, 2012

Kukje Gallery is committed to presenting the work of the most current and significant Korean and international contemporary artists. The project’s objective was to strengthen contemporary Korean culture’s presence in the art world while sensitively integrating a state-of-the-art gallery space into the historic area of northern Seoul. Our contextual design responds with a balance of bold contemporary aesthetics and intricate traditional techniques.

Kukje Gallery hosts robust international arts programming within a compact form. Transforming from an ambient day-lit space to a blackout space for projections and light-critical works, the gallery is a flexible platform for engaging with art. Lectures, films and performances take place in a subterranean 60-seat auditorium. For greater flexibility, support spaces such as offices, art handling facilities and storage are tucked beneath the auditorium.

Part of a cultural campus, the gallery assists in public wayfinding as it adds to a larger network of spaces and flows. In response to the scale of the surrounding urban fabric, we gave the gallery a much smaller volume than was allowed by zoning. This created space that could function as a public plaza in front of the gallery.

The design’s sensitivity to the physical and cultural characteristics of its evolving setting extends from the calibration of spaces to precise detailing. The materials and patterning of the plaza and surrounding walls refer to cobblestone streets and traditional regional building techniques. The façade’s draped form echoes the surrounding rooflines, while the mesh’s play of reflectivity and shadow gives the building mass a light appearance.

Considering a standard white cube gallery too austere for the historic urban fabric, we pushed all circulation to the periphery and enveloped the whole structure in a hand-fabricated chainmail veil. The bespoke façade of 510,000 metal rings is the result of a synthesis of computational processes and traditional fabrication techniques. We worked with engineers at Front Inc. to develop the façade through research and testing, and it was then produced by local craftsmen in Anping, China.

Kukje Gallery—K3, Seoul, South Korea, 2012

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Kukje Gallery—K3

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Kukje Gallery—K3

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Kukje Gallery—K3

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Kukje Gallery—K3 — East entrance

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Kukje Gallery—K3 — Urban context

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Kukje Gallery—K3 — Mesh detail

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Kukje Gallery—K3 — Exterior view

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Kukje Gallery—K3 — Parapet detail

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Kukje Gallery—K3 — Gallery view

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Kukje Gallery—K3 — Gallery view

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Kukje Gallery—K3 — Theater

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Kukje Gallery—K3 — Meeting room

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Kukje Gallery—K3 — Site plan

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Kukje Gallery—K3 — Ground floor plan

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Kukje Gallery—K3 — Basement plan

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Kukje Gallery—K3 — Section