In designing a riverside médiathèque in South Korea, Hani Rashid and Lise Anne Couture and their New York–based firm Asymptote Architecture created an immersive high-tech celebration of the very analog landscape.
In following with its mission statement, which says "the architecture is the exhibition, the exhibition is the architecture," the River Culture Pavilion (or ARC) is a stunning silver-skinned ovaloid that seems to rise out of the semi-rural South Korean landscape on the outskirts of Daegu, a city of 2.5 million.
"We were inspired to make a statement about the power and beauty of the landscape, the light and water, the mountains, the stones," Asymptote principal Hani Rashid says of this cultural pavilion, commissioned by the local water board in celebration of its $18 billion Four Major Rivers restoration project. "This is a client who is not inherently interested in art but became euphoric about the building because of how it inspires an understanding of the powerful forces of nature," he says.
The ETFE-cushioned exterior reflects a hazy image of the adjacent trees and Nakdong and Guemho rivers in its complex four-layer quilts, and mountains and clouds reflect in shallow pools on the rooftop and at the base of the ARC. Inside, the natural gives way to an immersive media experience. Equipped on its main floor with a 360-degree video wall—where abstractions of the exterior landscape are projected from 32 high-resolution projectors—the ARC’s design pushes for a potentially transformative visitor experience. The digitized images of water falling, gushing, and eroding are amplified by sound, light, and information, and they progress around the circle at the same speed as visitors walk. "I've always believed that architecture could have a deeper effect than that of merely occupying a space—like art, like music, we can be moved by a building," Rashid says.
The design of the interior pursues this agenda. Throughout—on mezzanines, the spiraling staircase, and in the high-ceilinged open spaces—the immersive virtual landscape pervades. "We have moved beyond the advent of technology as cold and hard into the idea of technology as a warm communal experience," Rashid says. "We wanted the ARC to reflect that, and to be a place that interacts emotionally with its visitors."
Project Credits Project River Culture Pavilion (ARC), Daegu, South Korea
Client Korea Water Resources Corporation (K-water)
Architect Asymptote Architecture, New York—Hani Rashid, Lise Anne Couture (design principals); Josh Dannenberg, John Guida (project directors); Brian Deluna, Duho Choi, Allison Austin, Rebecca Caillouet, Gabriel Huerta, Assoc. AIA, John Hsu, Susan Kim, Ryan Macyauski, Yun Shi, Penghan Wu, Hong Min Kim (design team)
StructuralEngineer Knippers Helbig Advanced Engineering
LocalArchitect EGA Seoul
Size 3,200 square meters (34,445 square feet)