The Chicago-based design firm, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill, unveiled today its design for Dancing Dragons, a pair of supertall mixed-used towers for the new Yongsan International Business District in Seoul, South Korea. The buildings, which include a mix of residential, ‘officetel', and retail uses, consist of slender, sharply angled mini-towers cantilevered around a central core. This design, as described in a press release, is 'contemporary yet informed by aspects of traditional Korean culture'.
A series of dramatic massing cuts in the towers create living spaces that float beyond the structure. These recall the eaves of traditional Korean temples - a design theme echoed in both the geometry of the building skin and the jutting canopies of the towers' base. The theme is extended to the building skin, which suggests the scales of Korean mythical dragons that seem to dance around the core - hence the project's name. (Yongsan, the name of overall development means 'Dragon Hill' in Korean.) The towers scale - like skin is also, performative, in that the gaps between its overlapping panels function to ventilate and cool the building.
Towers 1 and 2, which are 450m and 390m respectively, share an architectural language but are not identical. In the taller structure, the 88-storey Tower 1, the massing cuts at the top and bottom of the tower are V-shaped. In the 77-storey Tower 2, these cuts move diagonally in a single unbroken line; they are also arranged in a radical pattern around the core that is perceptible as viewers move around the tower.
"There is a sympathetic and complimentary relationship between the two masses at the level of the cuts, almost as though they were dancing," says Adrian Smith, FAIA, RIBA. "It's always important for our designs to reflect and interpret the cultures they serve, and the Dancing Dragons complex certainly does that, although in an abstract and highly technological manner."
Dancing Dragons is AS+GG's second major project in downtown Seoul, the other being the Head Office of the Federation of Korean Industries, a highly sustainable office building scheduled to be completed next year. The design team for the project also includes Positve Energy Practice, a Chicago-based engineering and energy consulting firm, and Werner Sobek, a structural engineering firm, which in collaboration with AS +GG, developed the structural scheme for the building.