Exceptional Architectural Design, Less Than Perfect Finish!


Ms Hadid is fêted for her innovative, curved architectural statements and this is exemplified by her London Aquatics Centre, the Zaragoza Bridge Pavilion and the Guangzhou Opera House. It is unfeasible to argue against the fact that her architectural approach remains unique. Now the Iraqi born architect has added Seoul’s Dongdaemun Design Plaza to her team’s portfolio.  The structure provides Seoul with a hub for art, design and technology, plus a landscaped park that serves as a much-needed green oasis, and a public plaza linking the two.

“The design is the specific result of how the context, local culture, programmatic requirements and innovative engineering come together – allowing the architecture, city and landscape to combine in both form and spatial experience – creating a whole new civic space for the city”  – Zaha Hadid.

Located on the site of a former baseball stadium in Dongdaemun; a historic district known for its 24 hour shopping and cafes, Zaha Hadid’s new Design Plaza includes aspects of the city’s ancient walls and cultural artifacts. The building features an undulating facade made up of 45,000 aluminium panels of varying sizes and curvatures. This was achieved by means of advanced 3-dimensional digital design and construction, making DDP the first public building in Korea to utilise the technology. The backlit facade is stippled with diminutive perforations that permit the edifice to convert from a solid body by day into an animated light show by night.

The multifaceted building consists of eight storey’s, of which four sit above ground level and four are set below the plaza. Amenities include exhibition galleries, convention and seminar rooms, a design museum, and a library and education centre.

Throughout the minimalistic interior, the use of glass and light wood enhances the design and the central staircase is a triumph.

Now for my criticisms; all are related to the finish of the building in certain places. Quality workmanship is important in today’s construction industry as the high quality achieved in building projects ensures future marketability and enhances the confidence of clients. I noticed white paint on wooden stair treads, poorly finished window seals, badly ground granite floor slabs and mismatched panels this unfortunately is common place in a country that does not value trades but deadlines. This building is three years late for political and financial reasons but that should mean the finish is exemplary and it is not. For the layman everything probably looks fine but for me as a former engineer it left me disappointed. I believe the building may age badly if snagging is not attended to in order to meet Ms. Hadid’s vision.

The Dongdaemun Design Plaza officially opened to the public March 21 as part of Seoul Fashion Week but I hear that the future events schedule is sparse to say the least. I truly hope that the Seoul government attends to this landmark buildings failings immediately to ensure its longer term success. This is a statement building, it defines Seoul internationally and is unlike any in the rest of Asia. Zaha’s design deserves success and only time will tell if that success materialises.

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