The intelligent open-ended architecture of Florian Beigel's Architecture Research Unit (ARU), which can accommodate changing patterns of human occupation over time, is a sophisticated antidote to today's tendency to see buildings as objects. Who would be anything less than ecstatic to be an employee in the offices of Positive People Inc. publishers - Beigel's second completed building in Paju Book City, 30km north of Seoul - with its carefully proportioned and sensitively daylit spaces (see the Building Study on pages 29-41)? The elegant simplicity and detailing of the interiors - exposed concrete walls and ceilings, timber oors and han-ji rice paper wall panels - invite human occupancy.
The wedge of exterior space at the building's entrance, which Beigel makes much of and likens to the outdoor public space at the Smithsons' Economist Building, is more difficult to judge.
From early on, the scheme was conceived as an ensemble of two buildings which responded to the differing directionalities of the site. This space, like the interiors, calls for human habitation, but the handsome austerity of the building's exterior, which borders on monolithic at street level, makes this a more questionable proposition. This building, more than most, needs to be judged in use. A pilgrimage to Paju Book City a few years hence would yield fascinating and instructive insights into how habitable and versatile this architecture really is.
The stepped massing of the Positive People building, driven by the urban-design framework developed by ARU, is a sensitive response to the site and lends itself easily to the creation of a roof terrace. Architects designing green roofs in response to the Greater London Authority's Living Roofs campaign, the initial results of which appear in this issue (see pages 51-58), would do well to take note of the ingredients which make for truly habitable rooftops, and not opt merely for green for green's sake.