The South Korean project recently completed by the architect practices of Álvaro Siza and Carlos Castanheira involved designing a new building at the headquarters of a well-known local cosmetics corporation. Dubbed a “campus” for the numerous buildings on site, the complex lies about 40 kilometres from Seoul.
The large new R&D building contains laboratories, offices, lecture rooms, multi-purpose environments and visitor reception facilities. Set in large grounds enclosed at one end by a wooded copse, the new building dialogues with its pre-existing neighbours across broad stretches of lawn whose natural slope is accentuated by a series of low walls marking out the approaches to this, the main campus building.
An imposing structure, it stands assertively in its plot heedless of the sloping terrain. The elevations vary widely. To the south - site of the unostentatious main entrance for people coming from outside the campus - the façade develops horizontally. A glazed outer envelope juts from the internal façade to be framed by an opaque brick wall clad in sheet steel slabs. The large air gap between the two skins is equipped with a series of metal grid maintenance walkways. The inner wall, a regular sequence of brick infill and lights on each floor, further emphasises the horizontal thrust of the building. The north elevation overlooking an industrial estate has the same double skin aspect. In contrast, the west elevation, looking out onto a pre-existing campus facility, juxtaposes to great effect the articulated volumes that make up the new architecture. Solid geometries, clad in slightly rough finish black granite, emphasise the sturdy mass of the building’s base. Impenetrable volumes are, however, pierced by ground floor openings, transition points between interior and exterior. Jutting volumes create wide sheltered passages leading to the secondary entrance, where reflective pools add to the luminosity. The progression towards the entrance hall combines natural elements, transparency and light. The entrance hall itself is a vast glazed space, an internal garden court flooded with light, further underlining the intimate connection between the building and its natural surrounds.
The programme is a weave of contrast and consistency. The glazed south and north façades contrast to great effect with the massive west elevation where deep canyons between the solid volumes are strikingly clad in square slabs of white marble. The long laboratory building stands in clear contrast to the elegant curve of a low pavilion in unrendered white cement. The solid mass of the laboratory building is invaded by nature: an ancient tree stands in the glazed hall and there is a hanging garden on the first floor. Contrast and consistency are equally the keynote of the interiors. Ubiquitous white walls are occasionally relieved by a few sections of coloured ceramic cladding, while heavy-duty resin flooring gives over to parquet in the auditorium and conference rooms.