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Located in the mountainous landscape of Gyeongju, South Korea, the Korea Hydro Nuclear Power Headquarters avoids becoming an obtrusive landmark tower in order to respect the geographic and historic aspects of the site. A simple, clean design that represents the rich culture of Gyeongju also becomes a symbol of KHNP as the creator of the world’s cleanest and safest means of energy production. Wrapped in a shell of Corten Steel, the headquarter building is a subtle architecture that blends with and emerges from the adjacent mountainside.

 Courtesy of H Architecture

The city is one of the most historically significant cities in the country and East Asia. Once the capital of the Shilla Dynasty, one of most prosperous and long-lasting dynasties of Korea’s 5,000-year national history, the city takes pride in preserving a great number of Korea’s oldest architecture and national treasures. Due to the project’s conditions, as well as the social and political implications of the program, the design must be approached with careful consideration for the site and also with an innovative form that graciously illustrates the dynamism of hydro-nuclear energy. To do this, the massing of the building emerges from an adjacent mountainside and grows upward in an elliptical plan, referencing the orbiting of electrons of an atom. This gesture creates a graceful centripetal form that also seamlessly relates to the immediate landscape.

The requirements included a variety of governmental office and civic programs as well as attentiveness for sustainable design. A large number of welfare programs create the need for a substantial communal base, and the office related programs stack vertically while growing in a spiral curve without having to propose an out-of-scale tower in the middle of the green landscape. Radiating from the elliptical center are podium masses that contain fitness facilities, meeting rooms, lobbies, and an auditorium. These podiums are divided by outdoor walkways that guide pedestrians into the building as well as into the internal courtyard. The elliptical tower floats on pilotis and creates gateways for these walkways, a reference to the gates of traditional Korean buildings that connect inner and outer courtyards.


 Courtesy of H Architecture

Because the form creates a sense of inner and outer, and because of solar orientation, two approaches for the façade design were employed. For the inner façade that faces south and inward to the courtyard, a transparent façade design with controlled shading was necessary to allow optimal light for the offices within. This was achieved by designing a shading module that changes in depth and width according to the rotating orientation toward the west. On the outer façade, a metal shell embraces the building mass, slightly folded near the bottom in a continuous line to accentuate a sense of movement of the electrons. The metal is panelized and perforated with a pattern resembling one of Gyeongju’s most treasured historical icons, the Emille Bell. This surface articulates an otherwise solid north facing building skin, which is necessary for insulating the headquarter building against harsh Korean winters and northern winds.

As with many new government agency headquarters in Korea, abundant recreational and semi-public spaces were incorporated to contribute to a healthy working environment and community-friendly functions. Amenities such as several sports fields, gardens, promenades, and ecological water reservoirs inspired by the famous historical water feature of the old city, contrast the dynamic hardscapes of the outdoor landscape. A large entrance plaza leads to a multi-level central courtyard space. This central outdoor space conceals vehicular drop-off circulation while offering a unique experience with the stepped lawn plaza and water feature. On the west side of the site, the elevated ground level extending from the mountainside contains tennis courts and a walking garden that merges onto the roof of the auditorium building. As the building mass arises from this mountainside, the stepped roof of the building contains green spaces as well as zones for solar panels.

 Courtesy of H Architecture

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