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Seoul opens cultural island masterplanning contest

Nodeul Island Image by Dolmang
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The Seoul Metropolitan Government has launched an international competition to masterplan its £115 million ‘dream island’ cultural complex

Open to architects, landscape architects and urban designs – the contest seeks proposals for a music-led arts centre on the 119,854.5㎡ Nodeul Island in the Han River.

A pair of first and second stage competitions has already been held to select an operational concept and future operator for the prominent landmass (pictured) which is connected to the city by two bridges.

The winner of the latest, third stage contest will draw up a spatial masterplan to realise the ambitions which were chosen in the previous competitions held last year.

Proposals should include a 500-capacity music hall, office space and retail areas for emerging businesses and a multi-purpose events space.

Submissions will be judged on their practicality, value for money and response to the historical context rather than appearance or scale.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government purchased the island in 2005. Jean Nouvel won a contest for an opera house on the island ten years ago but this project was never realised.

The winner of the latest contest will receive a design contract and the fee for the project is expected to be worth around £11 million.

The second place winner will receive approximately £29,000 and third place winner will take home around £17,000.

Jury members include Min Hyunsik of KIOHUN Architects and Florian Beigel, London Metropolitan University professor and Architecture Research Unit director (see interview below).

The competition languages are English and Korean. The deadline for submissions is 6pm local time on 27 May.


  • Florian Beigel, jury member, and director of the Architecture Research Unit and professor at London Metropolitan University

Florian beigel Image by Philip Christou

Florian beigel Image by Philip Christou

What are the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s ambitions for the cultural complex? The current mayor of seoul, Park Won Soon is a socially minded person who is sincerely interested in a democratic society. The ambition of this competition is to design characterful places to be built in the short-term that accommodate the social and cultural programmes and aspirations of the winners of the 2nd stage competition, that anticipate and offer potentials for productive and creative change in the longer-term.

Why is this international contest so important to the project? The first two stages of this competition where to select local citizens’ associations and individuals who will manage the island in the future. This is one of a number of international architectural and urban design competitions that the city of seoul with the advice of the city architect, Seung H-sang have organised in the past few years. This stage is a design competition, and the city wants the best architects and landscape architects in the world to participate.

What sort of architects are you hoping will participate in the competition? The best architects and landscape architects in the world, young or old.

What is your advice to UK firms considering to apply? It is very advisable that participants visit the site in Seoul. The site has a very interesting history that participants should understand in some depth. The previous mayor organised a large competition for a grand opera house on this site, and the current Mayor decided that the construction should not be large and expensive, and it should be for all types of citizens to use and enjoy. We would suggest that participants read the brief carefully, and think about what is meant by the key words, ‘citizen and history’. We think the brief is written to challenge competitors to think about history not only as past times, but also anticipation of future times.

Which other cultural complexes are you impressed by? In Seoul, two projects designed by the Korean architect, Joh Sung Yong come to mind:

(1) The partial demolition and renovation (2011) of the club house building of what was formerly the Seoul Country Club designed by the architect Na Sang-gin in 1970, now part of the Seoul Children’s Grand Park in Gwangjin-gu, Seoul.

South Korea

South Korea

Source: Image by Philip Christou

Seoul Childrens Grand Park

(2) Seonyudo Han River Park, Yeongdeungpo, Seoul, (2002).

Urban park on the island of Seonyudo in the Han River, converted from a former water filtration plant.

Seonyudo Park in Seoul

How to apply

View the competition website for more information

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