West Glow Office and Retail Building / Society of Architecture

Text description provided by the architects. Venice, the essence of this experience lies in wandering through the streets of Venice. Walking along the streets, entering beautiful shops for shopping, dining in restaurants with delicious aromas, and continuing along the path until encountering St. Marco’s Square—all these pedestrian experiences constitute the experience of the city itself. This holds true for most cities worldwide. A city is its streets, and streets define a city. The late Korean architect, Guyon Chung once said, “To walk this street is to become part of its history.” Walking the streets means becoming part of the city’s history.

West Glow Office and Retail Building / Society of Architecture - Exterior Photography, Windows, Facade
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West Glow Office and Retail Building / Society of Architecture - Interior Photography, Facade

Jahamun-ro is an ancient path. It is said that during the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties, this route was used to pass through this area to get to Kaesong and Uiju, crossing over Jahamun Hill. In the 1920s, Baekun-dong Stream was converted, expanding the road, and now it serves as a major thoroughfare and pedestrian walkway through Seochon. Before the Blue House relocated to Yongsan, weekends on Jahamun-ro were marked by processions heading towards the Blue House, and it remains a street where people visit the hidden old neighborhoods on both sides of the road. As the old neighborhoods hidden behind Jahamun-ro undergo changes, Jahamun-ro itself is also evolving, with neatly designed dining spaces and diverse shops with various hobbies, adding character to the street. West Glow is one small change embedded in the history of this street.

West Glow Office and Retail Building / Society of Architecture - Exterior Photography, Facade
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Due to the wide six to seven-lane road, Jahamun-ro provides conditions where pedestrians can sufficiently grasp the continuity of the opposite horizontal facades, allowing the eastern side to perceive the western facade from the west side and vice versa as one panorama. Facades of buildings play a significant role in defining the character of the horizontal. Hence, the fundamental theme of designing new buildings is “how to face the street.”

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West Glow aims to subtly intervene in the long history of Jahamun-ro with three main intentions. Firstly, to intervene as a part of the “continuous urban facade, a section of the continuous cityscape,” which will continuously change in the future. Secondly, it exists as a “polyphonic music” where multiple independent melodies harmonize into one. Thirdly, to stand as a small craftwork.

West Glow Office and Retail Building / Society of Architecture - Exterior Photography, Windows
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To exist as a part of the continuous urban facade, it fills the entire width facing the street with a single language without dividing the width of the site into left and right. This site also has small roads perpendicular to Jahamun-ro, resulting in an L-shaped facade, applying the same language to maintain continuity. This is to imply the volume and scale of the building units that Jahamun-ro’s changing buildings could have.

West Glow Office and Retail Building / Society of Architecture - Exterior Photography
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Merging multiple independent melodies in musical composition is called “counterpoint.” The glass surface of West Glow forms the second rhythm, entirely separate from the framework-insulation wall inside. It creates repeated folds on both sides of the facade, allowing the beginnings and ends of the building’s sides to remain open. The curved parts repeat in a wave-like pattern with a radius of 30 centimeters, creating a gradient from top to bottom using liquid ceramic coating (fritted glass) applied to compressed reinforced glass at a height of 3.8 meters. The glass surface, with a depth of around 60 centimeters, constitutes the deep surface of the building, having transparent/semi-transparent areas and opaque framework-insulation surfaces of different orders underneath.

West Glow Office and Retail Building / Society of Architecture - Interior Photography, Kitchen, Facade

West Glow is what is commonly referred to as a “kkoma(kid) building” for neighborhood living facilities. The naming seems to reflect Korean society’s perspective on such buildings. It implies a sense of humility, acknowledging that while landlords build these buildings with rental income in mind, the returns might not be significant. Most buildings filling up Korea, especially Seoul, are of this scale and limitation, where the constraints of small scale can actually prompt a reconsideration of the craftsmanship of buildings. Rather than following conventional construction or standard practices, it aims to evoke a sense of craftsmanship, curiosity, and presence, reflecting the process of newly devised details and their execution. Throughout the design process of West Glow, there was a continuous thought of glassblowing artisans blowing hot glass lumps onto metal pipes in a glass studio.

West Glow Office and Retail Building / Society of Architecture - Exterior Photography, Windows, Cityscape

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