The New Youlhwadang Book Hall Building

It was an absolute delight and honour for us to visit the newly completed Youlhwadang Book Hall Building in late August 2009. It is the latest of three Publishing Houses at Paju Book City that we have had the opportunity to design, two for the Youlhwadang Publishing House and one for Positive Thinking People Publishing House. These buildings sit along side each other on Bookmaker’s Street, forming a city cluster in Paju. All this is thanks to Mr. Yi Ki Ung’s passion and commitment to Korean and world art and culture and his deep interest in Paju Book City as an example of the highest quality contemporary urban and landscape design today. With the help and commitment of the architect Choi Jong Hoon, and his team in Seoul we have been able to build these buildings to a very high standard.

The Book Hall building makes an offering to the city in form of the Art Yard, a little public square as an extension of the public space of the street. The quality of this public space is reinforced by the architectural articulation of the building’s Art Yard façade and entrance portico. Similar to the language of Positive Thinking People Building, a little further down the street, and in a more archaic way, similar to the black Youlhwadang building, the Book Hall Building façade speaks with a friendly classical language of vertical differentiation. It is composed of closely packed buildings of different proportions and architectural character stacked next to each other or on top of each other. They are buildings made with simple walls and vertical windows. Looking more closely, one can see three or four different architectural characters in the Art Yard façade, reflecting to some extent the essential spaces behind the facades: Book Hall, Book Café, Mezzanine Lounge, and Apartment House on the upper two floors. The façade has a sense of decorum through a delicate and charming relief, cast in a light coloured concrete – a stone-like quality and a strong presence on Bookmaker Street.

The interior of the Book Hall gives a feeling of stepping into a contemplative memory place. One enters the hall from the Art Yard through a door under the entrance portico building. The bookshelves and display tables in the Book Halls of the New YoulHwaDang Building are designed in the same spirit as the architecture of the whole building. They are free standing pieces of furniture, not wall to wall shelves. On both ground floor and mezzanine levels, the book shelves and display tables have been designed as separate pieces of furniture, a family of similar elements. The proportions of these free standing bookshelves make a rhythm along the wall, not a repetitive anonymous grid. We have tried to give to the building a special charm and character, like that of a person.

We are trying to avoid standardisation and repetition in the design, to go beyond the reduction and abstraction of most contemporary international modernist architecture. For example, the new portico building stands in front of the building like a special character or body – a building figure. It is a child of the black timber clad Youlhwadang Phase 01 Building. YHD01 is also figurative, but more like a written character in a text, a little more abstract. In the design of the YoulHwaDang Book Hall Building, we are trying to give the building figure a public presence, a sense of civility and decorum. We hope it will be an important and unique public building in the city.

Florian Beigel and Philip Christou,
Feb. 2010

More information from Archtecture Research Unit

An Exhibition in Swiss Architecture Museum in Basel