Dominique Perrault Architecture
As architects, the first issue we had to deal with was already expressed in the competition requirements. The challenge was to propose a relevant answer to a commonly…
What was the most difficult issue about working within this building type or the most unexpected challenge that may have influenced new thought in your project?
As architects, the first issue we had to deal with was already expressed in the competition requirements. The challenge was to propose a relevant answer to a commonly known urban concern, to conceive construction in a densely populated city lacking urban space.
The project is introduced in the existing University campus, with its topography and its significant lack of dialogue with the neighborhood of Shinchon, in South West Seoul.
Regarding this context, we decided to dig the heart of the campus, burying approximately 70 000 m² of academic and administration program, commercial, recreation and parking areas, in order to connect the city and the campus through what we define as “landscape architecture” By making architecture disappear, the campus benefits of both new infrastructures and a generous public space area that extends the city into the very heart of the University campus, blurring the boundaries between public and private space.
Beyond architectural complexity, the main difficulty was to break psychological resistances against general conception and prove that underground architecture can reach high comfort levels and quality standards.
Did this project expand or evolve your role as an architect in any way? In general, do you feel that the role of the architect is changing on current projects?
This project was the opportunity to confirm that Architecture is a gesture of authority and architects, by their ability to transform territories, carry an enormous responsibility. It is not possible to develop such projects, without a very solid and enlightened client. Indeed, the close relation and the quality of the dialogue we shared all along the project with EWHA Womans University, allowed us to get into complex developments and adventurous solutions.
I am afraid that nowadays, clients may have difficulties to carry out such projects, with a great sensibility to urban developments and the strength to take into account situations exceeding their own needs.
In Europe, the modalities of the public procurement have recently evolved, promoting new tools such as public and private partnerships, design and build operations, or long term concessions. These contracts create a distance between the client and the architects, involving many new actors in the design and construction process: private construction companies, facilities managers, financial specialists…
How is your building possible today in a way that it may not have been before and how have trends in technology and society inspired new thought and solutions?
The EWHA Campus Center was designed in 2004 and realized in 2008. I think this project came to life because this kind of architecture was already understandable, developing innovative solutions to serious urban and environmental issues. Nowadays, those issues are well known. People are aware and informed on sustainable practices and clients are encouraging environmental certifications. Green roofs, geothermic installations, renewable energies or efficient insulation alternatives are new automatisms in the conception process.
Eight years ago, matters such as international competition between universities, urban densification, and sustainable development were already brewing and ready to break out. Eight years ago the criticism of contemporary architecture was already operational. Looking at technological innovations with a suspicious eye is probably a natural attitude. I think, we bring the right answer at the right time, going over psychological resistances regarding our architecture.
In the context of this project, how is your office and design process being influenced by current trends in academic curricula and incoming young architects? In turn, how are current projects and processes guiding the ongoing reformulation and development of academic curricula?
Architecture as a discipline evolves as it always has. I don’t think the development of visualization technologies, 3D modeling or dynamic simulations is a bad thing. There are more and more people involved in the design and construction process. Projects are increasingly complex. Therefore, the most appropriate tools should be applied in a parallel approach towards the architectural concept: models, video and renderings.
Parametric software, as CAD some years ago, is and will be progressively integrated to our tools, but it will not change the urban, architectural, spatial or esthetical convictions of our practice.