Samsung Jong-ro Tower
Samsung Jong-ro Tower
Seoul, South Korea1999 55,750 m²
In 1994, Samsung Corporation halted construction on a 20-story tower that was planned as a vertical shopping mall and launched a competition that would salvage the tower’s frame and floor slabs and create a mixed-use facility incorporating cultural, educational and retail space.
RVA focused on the context of the site at a major intersection in downtown Seoul. The location inspired a radical reinterpretation of the program and its physical constraints. RVA’s initial proposal expanded the existing steel frame and tripled the structure’s height. Although, as finally built, the tower is only 17 stories taller than the original structure, this departure from the client’s expectations helped RVA secure the commission.
The existing building’s triangular plan was oriented toward the center of the city by the convex curve of its longest façade, set back from the prime intersection and leaving approximately one-third of its total area unbuilt. Stair and elevator cores at the corners constituted the building’s circulation system. RVA’s design centered on three primary massing interventions: first, the vertical extension of the three cores to support a two-story volume containing restaurants and a night club; second, the addition of a cantilevered steel-frame cornice at the top of the original building, extending over the unbuilt corner of the site and sheltering an open public plaza; finally, the addition of a separate volume above the new cornice for the corporation’s administrative offices. The addition’s flat façade distinguishes it from the curved façade of the original structure.
The tower’s distinctive enclosure, which features exposed steel girders and large-scale aluminum louvers, is noteworthy for an innovative structural glass curtain wall system. The steel-bezel technique for joining sheets of glass makes possible a transparent façade whose weight is carried by vertical glass blades reinforced only by delicate stainless steel rods.
The building is integrated into the city below grade, with links to the subway system through an underground retail plaza.