JDAP [www.jdap.in] has designed an international centre for language in Songdo, South Korea. Sited on a bend in the stream that runs through the city's central park, the building forms an open gateway that draws people from the park, into an Open Centre at the heart of the building. Gently draped over a mound at one end and hovering over a pond at the other, the building is organised around a seamless flow of visitors through the building's collections.
Songdo is the largest privately developed city in the world. Seen as a 'ghost-town', as is a rather inevitable outcome of cities that grow from an enforced intent rather than slower, accretionary processes, the administration realised the need to have more room for culture with the city. The central park of the city, a sprawling patch of green, surrounded by the city's towers was selected as the place for the Museum of Language - a space that would exhibit a collection of written and oral artifacts from around the world.
While inserting yet another building onto this artificial island, the intention was clear that we would need to make architecture that was more Landscape and less Building. This was a place that commemorated the art of communicating, and it was imperative that it helped people connect with each other. These two aspects - of a building shaped by the movement of people, in the most natural, intuitive manner, became the guiding factor for the design of the centre.
Two entrances - a purely pedestrian one from the parkside that also picks up traffic from the Metro line and one that is both vehicular and pedestrian from the streetside at Central-Ro draw people onto the main public level that is raised for vantage over the landscape. The building can also be crossed at ground level to access the park from the street and vice-versa thus becoming part of the larger pedestrian networks of the city. The central raised court becomes a space for outdoor events and activities that can overflow either from or into the exhibition halls thus linking the institution to a broader cross section of people and activities.
The Open Centre has the exhibition spaces stacked in two tiers for reducing the travel distances for people moving within each individual exhibition space. While these offer large-span column-free spaces with connections to the staff and service facilities below, there are certain elements of the space that remain constant regardless of the internal exhibition configurations within the space. The external skin of the building has a pattern in Hanji - the traditional Korean paper renowned for its strength, durability and water resistance. The Hanji sheets are laminated within glass giving the interior a luminous quality of light passing through paper.
The pattern of Pojagi - the Korean art of quilting various pieces of cloth together are used in skylights metaphorically alluding to the mosaic of cultures that are housed within the Museum. While physical artifacts have light filled spaces at upper levels of the Museum, digital means of communicating are also employed in the form of responsive holograms, touchscreens, sensor based applications and augmented reality displays. These are housed within the lower levels with more opportunity for a controlled lighting and display environment.
As a counterpoint to the complexes of buildings across the stream, the Museum forms a languid presence, embracing the landscape and gently resting upon it. The Museum finds home in the Park and encourages people to discover the richness of experience and knowledge that it holds.