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Model Home Gallery

NADAAA

In any architectural project unpredictability and sheer ignorance play an important role. But although taken in ignorance, architects’ decisions can often turn out to be cannily correct. Indeed many interesting architectural mistakes often turn up in other projects.
The Model Home Gallery (MHG) by Nader Tehrani of the NADAAA practice is described by the architect himself as “damage control”, meaning the result of a strategy to limit the number of architect mistakes. For a programme designed in eight months and built in seven, having control mechanisms in place was essential.
MHG is a new kind of architecture invented in South Korea by Samsung Corporation, the company known in the West for its telephones but which in Korea is synonymous with housing development, cars and real estate.
MHG is a piece of urban infrastructure comprising two parts: a black box atop a public gallery. Both engage with the Seoul skyline, itself laid out like a series of box-like towers against the mountains in the background. While the ground floor gallery engages with the immediate landscape, the black box dialogues - in critical fashion - with the succession of boxes against the horizon.
This particular black box is a rock on top of an artificial hill. It houses a series of mock-ups of medium-high end luxury apartments for the Korean middle class, a social group still enjoying upward mobility, unlike the rest of the world. The gallery below contains a cafe, auditorium, VIP room, restaurant and exhibition space. Together they provide two kinds of public space.
I believe the NADAAA programme comes to grips with a pressing architectural issue of today, triggered not so much by convincing theoretical arguments as by the existence of certain kinds of architectural production: the problem of outlandishly exuberant building envelopes offset by deliberately downplayed interior spaces.
Seoul is a city whose exuberant building envelopes range from...

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