Joho Architecture on what to do with space you're not allowed to use

Platform-L by Joho Architecture. Photos Namgoong Sun

SEOUL – It’s what’s on the outside that counts. At least, that’s what the building regulations in the Korean district of Gangnam would have you believe. From the get-go, local firm Joho architecture was under a strict budget with Platofrm-L – a contemporary art centre sponsored by French fashion brand Louis Quatorze – not financially but in regards to the site restrictions.

However, this is standard practise in South Korea. Despite the fact that Gangnam is swiftly becoming the modern business hub of the city, the residential location of the site means that limits are in place regarding both the floor–area ratio and the building coverage rate. This was the challenge addressed by Joho Architecture. ‘The site is classified within a general residential zone rather than a commercial zone,’ explains project architect Jeonghoon Lee. ‘This means that it is subjected to increased building restrictions of sixty per cent.’ The design principle of Platform-L was to showcase the remaining forty per cent of the site as something useful in its own right, rather than treating it as an inconvenience to be dealt with.

A vast majority of buildings in the area use the remaining site space to incorporate car parking. Convenient, yes – but a waste, perhaps, of perfectly useful exterior space. Joho Architecture directly contradicts popular convention by burying the car park below grade and opening the ground level up as a communal gathering point. The building comprises a north and a south wing – separating offices and gallery spaces – split by a central courtyard which acts as its own space. ‘Platform-L addresses the Korean construction regulations in an unexpected way,’ Lee continues, ‘by interpreting the outdoor courtyard as a mediating space and a platform that serves as an extension of and a link to other parts of the building.’

A linear façade of anodised aluminium louvers envelops the three outward-facing elevations with a horizontal pattern that resembles a two-year collection of elastic bands stretched around the volume of the irregular trapezoid. In contrast, the courtyard is surrounded by a rippled elevation which glows with a warm light and combines external circulation access with public viewing balconies.

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