Samoo's designs for a 'show window' of Korean culture in NYC
In the context of the New York City grid, how does one create a Korean cultural center that is situated in a northward facing site? The solution was to embrace natural light as one of the most critical elements in the design process. By introducing daylight deep into the building’s northern void spaces and entry points, visitors can feel the vitality and dynamism of Korean culture. At this end, a gap between the core and major space was designed to provide a 'passage of light'. This will also be used as a main circulation area that accommodates the grand stair which connects the lobby, exhibition space and the Korean garden on the 2nd floor. This journey from ground level to 2nd floor is a metaphor of a path to light and enlightments.
After careful analysis of program, the whole building section was divided into three zones; public, semi-public, and private. These three zones were translated into three design objects that represents Korea’s past, present and the future (Heaven, Earth and Human in cosmology). These icons are visible from the 32nd street through a transparent glass curtain wall. The approach of having ‘icons within a glass box’ is a metaphor that the center works as a ‘show window’ of Korean culture.
The public zone offers convenient access from the 32nd street and visitors can enjoy events such as book signing events, performances and installations by Korean artists as well as recent films and dramas by Korean directors. The semi-public zone offers library, language and cooking classes as well as Korean handicraft galleries. The private zone consists of mainly offices and studios which includes two smaller studios on the rooftop level offering opportunities of ‘artist-in-residence’ programs. Because the building consists of various programs, different floor heights have been used for necessary spaces. Floor height of up to 6.6m has been set for exhibition, performance, and library spaces while a 2.6m ceiling height has been used for the various classes that requires a more intimate atmosphere. Considering the height limit of the site which makes future vertical expansion impossible, the configuration of various floor heights will provide opportunity for internal expansion by installing mezzanine levels if needed.