“Every time we build or renovate a building, we make a public act.” – DaeWha Kang
By combining contemporary material processes with organic principles, DaeWha Kang Design has transformed a 1980’s-era office building into a new dynamic headquarters for Communique, a public relations firm in Seoul Korea. With a very limited budget, the project team focused on four key points throughout the design process: the production of a human-oriented design, an environmentally responsive facade, a collaborative working environment, and evaluation of design through simulation and measurement. The renovation scope includes retrofitting a ground level parking area into an indoor/outdoor café, re-programming of the office area to maximize daylight for employee desk locations, and a rooftop terrace inspired by traditional Korean hoerang, or circumambulatory walkways.
One of the most eyecatching elements of the project is an existing column, on the ground level, clad with a tessellation of silver leaves. The mirror finish stainless steel panels reflect the activity of the street while also visually doubling the height of a relatively low existing space (less than 9 feet). A curved surface between the column and the soffit is realized with singly folded diamond shaped panels, producing a triangulated effect. The pattern expands beyond the intensity of the column, into larger flat shaped panels. This geometry wraps up the facade, producing a primary grid which further warps in response to sightlines of the building from the surrounding urban context.
The architects incorporated new high-performance double-glazed units and provided insulation at the exterior walls to combat significant thermal and condensation issues in the existing building. MaCheon grey granite panels regionally sourced provide a strong gray coloration to the facade.[interstitial]
DaeWha Kang, Principal of DaeWha Kang Design, says the panels are attached to the facade with a simple bracket and pin anchoring detail allowing for future removal for maintenance if necessary: “That means that even if the building facade needs to be maintained in thirty or forty years time, it will be possible to remove each of the panels from the brackets without damaging them.”
Digital analysis tools were employed during the design process to correct existing glare and daylighting issues in the existing space. Solar radiation analysis helped to determine the optimum quantity and location of windows in the office floors, while various window opening directions were tested in a fluid dynamics simulation. The team ended up with a series of casement windows that produce gill-like openings in the building envelope. These openings are paired with louvered blinds on the interior for further glare reduction without blocking air circulation.
One of the significant findings from the analysis was that the lower floors required larger openings than the upper floors. Establishing an optimum window opening size allowed the panelization of the facade to geometrically integrate with the openings, creating what Kang calls “a completely organic integration of aesthetics and building performance.” The patterning of the facade was further influenced by standard block lengths from the quarry where the stone was sourced, constructability factors such as the maximum weight for a one-person installation, and the reduction in quantity of more costly curved panel geometry. These constraints produced secondary panelization geometry. A hierarchy between the two grids was visually reinforced by a chamfered corner cut all at primary grid lines, producing a shadow gap along the panel edge.
Kang says this architectural process has produced a project that “has content and character, not just branding and image,” and is aligned with broader community ideals: “Projects like this are crucial in Seoul. We must move beyond the city as an accumulation of isolated buildings that do nothing for their surrounding neighborhood, and instead support clients who have a vision to do something more with their ambitions.”