Kukje Gallery Seoul, Samcheong-ro Building Design, South Korean Architecture

Kukje Gallery in Seoul

Samcheong-ro Arts Building in Korea – design by SO – IL, Architects

13 Jun 2012

Kukje Gallery Seoul

Seoul, South Korea

Design: SO – IL

Gallery in Samcheong-ro


After 3 years of design and construction, SO – IL, the architectural studio of Florian Idenburg and Jing Liu, complete a space for Kukje Gallery, in the historic neighborhood of Samcheong-ro in Seoul, South-Korea. The new building greatly expands the gallery’s programming possibilities with the addition of a 16 x 9 x 6m day lit gallery space, a 60 seat auditorium, offices and art storage spaces.

Kukje Gallery Kukje Gallery Seoul Kukje Gallery Seoul Building Kukje Gallery Seoul Korea
images : Iwan Baan


The architectural proposal resolves a perceived disjunction between the dynamism and boldness of Kukje Gallery’s organization and artist roster, and the fragile historic fabric saturated by materials and details that surrounds the site. Studies led to a soft and ambiguous building that gently nestles itself into the site. Circulation—entries, vestibules, elevators and stairs—has been pushed out of the orthogonal gallery space to maximize its height and maintain a clear interior volume.

Considering the diagrammatic box geometry too rigid within the historic fabric, SO–IL enveloped the building in a mesh veil, creating a nebulous exterior that changes appearance as visitors move through the site. A custom stainless steel mesh produces a layer of diffusion around the structure, through a combination of reflections, openness, and moiré patterns produced through the interplay of its shadows. The mesh, made out of 510.000 individually welded rings, is strong yet pliable as it wraps around the building’s irregular geometries. The result is an abstract ‘fuzzy’ object that accommodates a multiplicity of readings.

Kukje Gallery Kukje Gallery Seoul Kukje Gallery Seoul Building Kukje Gallery Seoul Korea
images : Iwan Baan


The building contains a 16 x 9 x 6m gallery space, a 60 seat auditorium, project spaces, support and administrative functions for the gallery complex. The ground floor gallery is a single-story, column-free space optimized for large installations, performances and events. To light the art and keep a palpable relationship to the outside, daylight enters through a perimeter skylight. The skylight can be shaded or completely darkened, to create a black-box condition, which allows for light sensitive works or video. The first of two lower levels holds a 60 seat dark stained wood-clad auditorium, administrative areas, catering spaces, restrooms and mechanical spaces. The second basement holds storage and support spaces.

Kukje Gallery Kukje Gallery Seoul Kukje Gallery Seoul Building Kukje Gallery Seoul Korea
images : Iwan Baan


Historically, chainmail mesh was used as armor, tightly wrapping curvilinear bodies. Originating in Central Asia – and migrating to East Asia via Europe – chainmail has been globally used because of its unique characteristics. It is rigid, as it is made out of metal, and it has a fabric-like flexibility, due to the way the rings interlink. These combined qualities offer the possibility to create a strong skin that can adapt itself to the contour of any individual body and shape.

For Kukje we developed a strategy to transpose this material into an architectural façade system. The effect here is creating a ‘fuzzy’, approximate boundary of the building mass. The hard-edged box of the art gallery blends into the irregular shape of the site and its context. Through extensive research, conducted together with Front Inc – a façade engineering firm– we created this one-off façade. It is a seamless, custom-made tight fitting ‘dress’ consisting of 510.000 hand welded and grinded stainless steel rings.

The mesh was produced with local craftsmen in Anping, China, under tight supervision and quality control by Front / Via LLC and SO – IL. The technical innovations include Front’s development of a highly flexible perimeter attachment system that allows the mesh to form find for itself and develop an equilibrated pre-stress, eliminating wrinkling and stress concentrations.

Equally significant was the development of a computational process for modelling the way the mesh would drape over the building. This allowed Front to predict the number of needed rings at each location and create precise finite element engineering models. From a material and façade engineering standpoint this is a ground-breaking project which will enable an unprecedented exploration of ‘atmospheric’ surfaces.

Kukje Gallery Kukje Gallery Seoul Kukje Gallery Seoul Building Kukje Gallery Seoul Korea
images : Iwan Baan

Kukje Gallery Seoul – Building Information

1. Master plan (3000m2) reimagining the function of the 2 existing gallery buildings with the third space and strengthen their interconnection
1.1. Main building (K1) bookshop, entrance desk, secondary entrance/exit, expansion of office
1.2. Second gallery building (K2) entrance area, deal-room
1.3. Landscape and way-finding
2. New gallery building (K3)

area / program
Roof: outside terrace 80 m2
GF: gallery 150 m2 (1600cm x 950cm)
BF1: theatre 15 m2, 60 seats
administration: 72 m2
catering space: 68 m2
BF2: back of house 380 m2

total floor area: 1260 m2
site area: 800 m2

material used
structure: in-situ concrete; steel roof beams and secondary structure
façade: curved low-iron laminated glass, bead-blasted chainmail stainless steel mesh
roof: stone pavers, glass skylights
interior wall: drywall with plywood backing
floor: polished concrete (GF), stained wood (BF1)
theatre: acoustic materials, stained wood


Architect: SO – IL, team: Florian Idenburg (partner), Jing Liu (partner), Iannis Kandyliaris, Cheon-Kang Park, Sooran Kim
Architect of record: Jong Ga Architects
Mesh System Design Consultant: Front Inc. (www.frontinc.com), team M. Min Ra, Jeffrey Kock, Benjamin Bradley, Evan Levelle, Koshi Kawakami
Landscape design and construction: 뜰과 숲 / Garden in Forest CO., Ltd Structural Engineer: Dong Yang Structural Engineering
Mechanical Engineer: J.K. Technology
General Contractor: Jehyo Construction and Engineering (www.jehyo.com)
Mesh System Supplier: VIA LLC
Theatre consultant and contractor: VITAMIN Design
Photographs: Iwan Baan


Since Kukje Gallery opened at the center of Seoul in 1982, it has been committed to presenting the work of the most current and significant Korean and international contemporary artists. The Gallery has established itself as a leading venue for showing works by major international artists such as Damien Hirst, Eva Hesse, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Joan Mitchell, Cy Twombly, Ed Ruscha, Joseph Beuys, Anselm Kiefer, Louise Bourgeois, Jenny Holzer, Candida Hofer, Bill Viola, Anish Kapoor, etc.

The exhibitions provided the foremost rare opportunity for the Korean art audiences to encounter the works of world-renowned contemporary artists without going abroad. Kukje Gallery has an unmatched reputation in Korea for having introduced many of the most critically acclaimed international artists, and for supporting the most promising Korean artists. The Gallery continues to play a key role in developing the domestic art market and promoting Korean artists; as well as drawing the national audience’s attention to the currently international art world.

Art Institute of Chicago

The Art Institute of Chicago recently acquired a number of concept and process models SO – IL created for the design for Kukje Gallery. These works will become part of the permanent collection, which includes works by Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Bertrand Goldberg. The AIC is planning to install a small installation of the Kukje design in the near future.

Kukje Gallery Seoul images / information from SO – IL Architects


Location: Samcheong-ro, Seoul, Korea

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Comments / photos for the Kukje Gallery Seoul page welcome

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