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SsD’s Jinhee Park on Site-Specific Design, From Cambridge to Korea

Where better to address the issue of housing shortage than in one of the world’s 50 most densely populated cities? Located in Seoul’s largest district, the Songpa Micro-Housing functions as a small urban village in which the line between individual living units and semi-public and open-program spaces are blurred, adding significant social value to the reconfigurable blocks of the complex.

Lidija Grozdanic Lidija Grozdanic

With 90+ categories and 300+ jurors, the Architizer A+Awards is the world’s definitive architectural awards program. Following the culmination of the 2015 program in May, we are pleased to showcase some of the 100+ winners. In partnership with Cadillac, this series of profiles offers an exclusive look at several firms that push the boundaries of the profession and truly dare greatly.

With a design studio as small as SsD (short for Single Speed Architecture), counting just a few people in their Boston, New York, and Seoul offices, one wouldn’t expect to find such a diverse body of work. Harvard graduates Jinhee Park and John Hong established the firm in 2003 while working together on three townhouses in Cambridge and have since moved on to bigger projects including the elegant White Block Gallery and Songpa Micro-Housing block that recently won the 2015 Architizer A+Award in the Residential: Multi-Unit Housing – Mid-Rise (5–15 Floors) category.

Jinhee Park, 2015 Architizer A+Awards Gala

Where better to address the issue of housing shortage than in one of the world’s most densely populated cities, nearly twice as dense as New York City? Located in Seoul’s largest district, the Songpa Micro-Housing functions as a small urban village in which the line between individual living units and semi-public and open-program spaces are blurred, adding significant social value to the reconfigurable blocks of the complex. The building draws on the tradition of socially engaged multifamily residential architecture and seems to follow the “house as city” design logic pioneered by SANAA’s iconic Moriyama House.

Songpa Micro-Housing, Seoul, South Korea

The unit blocks, accessible via a single core, were arranged to comply with the local zoning requirements, allowing the architects to form a tapioca-like outer layer that permeates the main volumes and acts as a soft intersection between public and private spaces, interior and exterior. The open ground floor doubles as a parking space and public plaza pulling pedestrians in from the street and providing access to the exhibition and café spaces below grade. A set of auditorium-like steps, through which the interior space spills onto the street above, functions as a multi-use area for informal gatherings, film screenings, and events. Along with the triangular sky-well, this incision in the pavement draws natural light into the underground spaces.

Songpa Micro-Housing, Seoul, South Korea

Micro-units located on the second floor can be transformed into gallery spaces as well as living quarters. Two unit types of 120 and 240 square feet were designed for extreme flexibility, both internally and in relation to each other. Operable walls, built-in furniture, and transformable elements accentuate the functional flexibility of spaces, while subtler interventions, such as the introduction of clerestory windows and extended sight lines, create an impression of spaciousness.

The ambiguous treatment of privacy is noticeable throughout the building, from small windows looking onto walkways and green patches and rooftop gardens scattered across different levels of the building to the effect of fine grain screens that envelop the entire structure. The thin metal ribbons run the height of the building and create varied levels of visual porosity while simultaneously masking utilities such as conduits and gas lines.

White Block Gallery, Heyri, Korea

This interest in interstitial spaces and visual ambiguity is noticeable in the firm’s White Block Gallery project in Heyri, Korea. Due to the careful arrangement of three solid gallery volumes, seven additional galleries were produced using these in-between areas. Visually, the orthogonal solids are juxtaposed with fritting patterns on the façade, which establish different levels of transparency. Through this interplay of volumes and voids, alongside low- and double-height spaces, the autonomy of galleries fluctuates, creating an interior topography that is alternately connected and separated from the natural landscape of the lakefront site.

Big Dig House, Lexington, Mass.

One of the firm’s early projects, the 4,300-square-foot Big Dig House in Lexington, Mass., conveys a different design attitude. Its industrial look and feel was determined by structural principles — the architects reused over 600,000 pounds of salvaged materials from elevated portions of the dismantled I-93 Highway. Oversized steel supports and roadway panels were used in their original raw form, defining the look of both exterior and interior with exposed steel beams, concrete slabs, and a large-scale roof garden.

The home has an aggressive appearance, but its rugged looks are countered by the building’s sensitivity to context and low environmental impact, aligning perfectly with the firm’s credo of “shooting for maximum effect with minimum means.”

Cadillac | Architizer A+Awards • Jinhee Park // SsD Architecture from WSJ. Custom.