Florian Beigel and the Architecture Research Unit (ARU) of London Metropolitan University are working on a new project in South Korea, for a site on the reclaimed land of Paju Book City, north of the capital, Seoul. The scheme is immediately next to the Youl Hwa Dang Publishing House, which they completed in 2004. This latest project is for another publisher - Chung Yong Chul, who runs the Positive Publishing Co - and will provide office, storage and living space in two buildings at the point in Paju where the street of publishing houses makes a 45º turn towards a mixed-use area.
Reecting its pivotal place in the overall plan of Paju, one of the new buildings aligns with those in the publishing street while the other makes a half-turn towards the mixed-use premises but doesn't read as part of them - its transitional role is clear. The two buildings engage in a subtle give-and-take, each having a stepped section and echoing the other in form, but one with the main room on the first oor and the other having it on the ground. As with Beigel and ARU's Pojagi building (AJ 05.05.05), the precise use of rooms is not predetermined but awaits inhabitation.
Beigel wanted a loadbearing brick structure - a rarity in a country of curtain walls - but new posttsunami regulations in Korea rule this out above two storeys. Thinking of Bernd and Hilla Becher's photographs of old industrial buildings and later precedents such as Mies' campus for Illinois Institute of Technology, Beigel opted instead for a steel and brick curtain, tied to an inner structural leaf of concrete.
Much attention has gone to the placement of the windows, so that their rhythm is distinct from the steel's and they are not 'imprisoned' by it.
In tune with ARU's emphasis on research, the project is part of an ongoing interest in what Beigel calls ensembles: the way in which separate elements and the spaces between them are made to cohere. It's a theme that he illustrates with disparate references: a Lewerentz photograph of 'tomb-temples' on the Appian Way and a Morandi still life. In partnership with Korean architect Choi Jong Hoon of Network in Architecture, Beigel and ARU's scheme starts on site this month for completion in summer 2007.