Known for her futuristic, curvilinear architectural forays, Zaha Hadid, the Iraqi Pritzker prize winning architect, has never been one to shy away from making a statement. From London’s Aquatics Centre to the Zaragoza Bridge Pavilion to the Guangzhou Opera House, Zaha’s architectural style remains unique. Now the Iraqi born designer can add Korea’s Dongdaemun Design Plaza to her team’s resume.

Incorporating the latest in rendering and construction methods, the DDP project in Seoul was the first public project in Korea to use 3D Building Information Modelling. Parametric modeling software was used extensively in order to meet the project’s design requirements. “The design is the specific result of how the context, local culture, programmatic requirements and innovative engineering come together – allowing the architecture, city and landscape to combine in both form and spatial experience – creating a whole new civic space for the city,” says Zaha.

Located at the center of Dongdaemun, a historic district known for its 24 hour shopping and cafes, Zaha Hadid’s new Design Plaza is strategically situated on a historically relevant site that takes inspiration from and includes aspects of the city’s ancient walls and cultural artifacts. It is these elements, plus a myriad of parametric modeling calculations that were the key drivers behind the project’s programming and narrative.

The entire site consists of three separate components, covering approximately 65,000 m2 (699,654 sq.ft) and a construction floor area of 86,574 m2 (931,874 sq.ft.). With four levels above ground and four below the design park area that covers roughly 38,000 m2 (409,000 sq.ft).

Statistics for the cladding and exterior materials that give the DDP project its smooth, curvilinear façade are equally impressive. With a total cladding surface area of 30,000 m2 (322,917 sq.ft), Zaha’s team required 45,133 panels to completely skin the structure. The panels, composed of fair-faced concrete, aluminum, steel, and stone, in total comprised a design mix where 50 percent of the panels were double curved, 30 percent single curved, and 20 percent were cold-bended and flat. Total surface area of exposed concrete, another of Zaha’s signature design moves, measures out to 21,000 m2 (226,042 sq.ft).

The façade itself is not solid; instead it incorporates a field of pixilation and perforations, that together create a changing visual dynamic that shifts depending on lighting and seasonal conditions. For instance at night, the changing façade reflects Dongdaemun’s many lights and signage, turning the project into one giant illuminated structure. But in the daytime it can blend in with the surrounding environment, depending on the light and weather conditions.

Throughout the minimalistic interior, Zaha chose to fill the spaces with familiar design elements like solid acrylic panels, stainless steel, polished stone and glass fiber reinforced gypsum. Chaotic yet fluid bleached white acrylic branches and supporting features populate the interior, alongside juxtaposed design touches like unfinished concrete and stainless steel. A wooden staircase strategically located in the main space is the only natural design element to intrude on the DDP’s otherwise cold inner interior space.

The Dongdaemun space also features a 30,000 m2 (322,917 sq.ft) Park that is intended to provide an inner-city refuge for locals and visitors. The greenspace, encased by the plaza, is integrated seamlessly into the site and designed to rethink the traditional Korean garden concept.

As part of its mandate to act as a cultural catalyst and drive Dongdaemun as a cultural hub, the DDP space includes an extensive list of public spaces. Three exhibition halls and two convention halls make up part of the inner sanctum while a design museum, lab and children’s education center, media center, and a Sky Lounge allow the DDP to host a variety of exhibitions and events. A Design Cultural Park composed of an event hall, sports memorial area, relic museum and design gallery helps finish out the interior space.

The Dongdaemun Design Plaza officially opened to the public March 21 as part of Seoul Fashion Week. The DDP is set to host five separate design and art exhibitions, featuring works from various designers, as well as collection of traditional Korean art from the Kansong Art Museum.

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