Posted in Projects on 4 February, 2016

Richard Meier & Partners has announced the completion of the Seamarq Hotel in Gangneung, an ‘upper-luxury’ hotel, built as part of a major redevelopment of the region ahead of the 2018 Winter Games. Hamish Kilburn spoke with architect Richard Maier to find out more…

Composed of two main buildings and supporting facilities nestled into a hill of dense pine trees, Seamarq Hotel in Gangneung, South Korea, overlooks the East Sea, Gyeongpo Lake and the Taebaek mountains. The former Hyundai Hotel Gyeongpodae, now known as Seamarq Hotel, has been rebuilt as part of a revitalisation of the region in preparation for the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea.

The Hotel Tower is anchored to the summit plateau and located very close to the ocean as if it was emerging from the ground. In contrast, the Banquet Hall is located at a lower plateau connected by a bridge, both buildings integrated into the landscape. A rich sequence of spaces unfolds as a procession begins from the approach on the main road along Gyeongpo Lake, passing through the entry court and gate to the hotel entrance plaza that is marked by the local vegetation.

The ascending road to the hotel flows gently around the natural terrain through the pine forest offering glimpses and framed views of the Gyeongpo Canal and the Hotel. The sequence of outdoor spaces and landscape design concepts were developed in collaboration with James Corner Field Operations and a local landscape consultant.

“With this hotel we aspire to create something new and innovative,” comments Richard Meier. “The principles that guide the work in our office are rooted in timeless, classical design issues such as the Context, the Site, and the use of Natural Light. In my work I seek to find through design the best of what exists and what can be. My purpose is to deliver thoughtful, original modern architecture that is as accessible as it is beautiful, as humanist as it is disciplined. This is an architecture which is concerned with the individual as well as the community at large.”

The primary aim for the Seamarq Hotel was to create a strong sense of place by enhancing and transforming the existing site in a dramatic way. “Many of the cues for the design came from the site; its light, its landscape, its topography. Perhaps the most important initial decision was to work with the configuration of the land and to design the hotel complex in relation to the existing topography,” adds Meier.

“This is an especially important project to me personally because it is the first project in my home country.” says Dukho Yeon, Design Partner-in-charge. “The geometric form of the hotel tower follows the soft shape and contours of the hill, with an 11-storey trapezoidal tower perched on top of a four-story base comprising 150 guestrooms – with almost all rooms with ocean views and some with spectacular views of the nearby Gyeongpo Lake, and the distant Taebaek mountains.”

A generous outdoor deck and promontory with an infinity-edge pool and panoramic views of the ocean is a signature space of the hotel on the fifth floor. Besides offering a place for social events, the sun deck acts as a transitional space between the low rise base and the high rise tower.

“In designing a building which is on the water, the water view takes priority, so that all of the public spaces, all the living spaces open up to the water. So there is a relationship between open and closure, between opacity and transparency,” says Meier. “The guestrooms and the public spaces at the Seamarq Hotel are in many ways related to some of the early houses that I have designed, such as the Smith House and the Douglas House where there is an open living space, a great deal of transparency and an openness to the nature around the site.”

The porte-corchere framed by the Hotel building canopy and entrance to the Banquet Hall opens to a grand two-storey lobby lounge and bar facing the sea at ground level with a wraparound outdoor deck as an extension of the lobby. The views are unobstructed and maximised with indoor and outdoor spaces that flow seamlessly together. The restaurant is nestled into the existing landscape one level below the lobby and enjoys immediate and close views of the sea and the beachfront. The spa is one more level below, with spaces open to the dense vegetation and landscape, with its form following the natural shape of the hill. A presidential suite is at the tower’s summit with a generous terrace and courtyard garden with open views in all directions.

The crisp angular shape of the building contrasts with the soft shapes of the hill and lower floors of the restaurant and spa. The building’s changing silhouette is perceived differently from various vantage points as floating balconies, articulated planes, varying heights and the overhung canopy of the top floor Presidential Suite are characteristic elements of the design. The exposed façade of the core is expressed with an irregular pattern that creates movement and balance. The forms expressed in a light and white colour palette will make the building transform throughout the day in the interplay of light and the surrounding context.

Because of the mostly cool, minimal color palette of the architecture, the lighting, designed by L’Observatoire International was used to highlight all warm elements, such as the wooden feature stairs and wooden ceiling panels, to bring warmth to the interiors. Alternating cove and spot lights accentuate the geometric angles used to delineate the interior and exterior spaces.

Meier summarises: “The design of the hotel is concerned with the making of space, not abstract space, not scale-less space, but space whose order and definition is related to light, to human scale and to the culture of architecture. Every component of the hotel has been carefully designed taking in consideration the public areas, the weather and natural light of the East Sea. The unifying strategy for the whole project is the consistent concern with natural light, and the establishment of connections between the hotel, the banquet hall and the rest of the complex. We are proud that we were able to design every aspect of this project beginning with the entrance sequence, the landscape, and the details of the interiors. The Seamarq Hotel I hope is a transformative project for the region and Korea.”

[©(c)Roland Halbe; Veroeffentlichung nur gegen Honorar, Urhebervermerk und Beleg / Copyrightpermission required for reproduction, Photocredit: Roland Halbe]

Photography: Roland Halbe

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