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Competition: National Museum Complex, Sejong

An open international competition has been launched for a new 302.8 billion KRW museums quarter in Sejong, Korea (Deadline: 13 July)

Backed by the National Agency for Administrative City Construction, the anonymous contest seeks ‘future-oriented, and creative’ proposals for the high-profile 190,000m2 development.

Dubbed the National Museum Complex (NMC), the project will deliver five separate museums alongside supporting facilities and new green spaces in its 75,000m2 first phase.

South Korea

South Korea

Source: Image by Minseong Kim

Government Complex, Sejong

Planned structures include a National Archives Museum, National Design Museum, National Architecture and City Museum, National Digital Heritage Museum and a National Children Museum.

Located around 120 kilometres south of Seoul, Sejong – also known as Administrative City – became the country’s de-facto capital four years ago.

According to the contest brief: ‘The NMC would like to function as a platform of the entire city’s cultural network, making itself a catalyst for a global culture city.

‘The NMC is expected to provide the Administrative City with creative power by securing cultural identity and symbolic property not only for local community but also for the nation.’



NMC contest site

The document continued: ‘The NMC will realize the Administrative City’s environment-friendly value and vision of harmonizing inhabitants with nature, providing citizen with open space and integrating with surrounding environments such as the Che creek, Geum river, Central Park, and Jeonwol mountain.’

Surrounding a central park and lake, the 270 hectare capital city will host 37 government departments and 500,000 residents when it completes in 2030.

Participants will submit a general plan for the entire NMC alongside a masterplan for the 75,000m2 opening phase during the competition’s first round.

Five shortlisted teams will then receive around 50 million KRW each to develop a more detailed masterplan and architectural designs for the opening phase’s first stage which features the National Children’s Museum, a central storehouse, and a central operations centre.

The National Archives Museum, National Design Museum, National Architecture and City Museum and National Digital Heritage Museum all feature in the opening phase’s second stage.

South Korea

South Korea

Source: Image by Minseong Kim

Sejong National Library by Samoo

A natural history museum, up to five further museums and other supporting amenities will be delivered in the complex’s 115,000m2 second phase.

Proposals are expected to reflect the city’s and Korea’s cultural identity, provide generous open spaces for citizens and promote new discussions about urban development and social change.

Nearby landmarks include Samoo’s competition-winning National Library of Sejong City and Balmori Associates’ 3.5 kilometre-long government complex.

Completed in 2014, the iconic seven-storey building – inspired by an Oriental dragon – features a continuous green roof with government offices below.

Judges include Christopher Sharples of New York-based SHoP architects and Yongmi Kim of Korea’s GS Architects & Associates.

The overall winner will receive the design contract with fees for the initial buildings expected to be worth around 4 billion KRW. Six honourable mentions from the contest’s first round will also receive approximately 5 million KRW.

How to apply


The deadline for submissions is 13 July

Contact details

Architecture and Urban Research Institute


Visit the competition website for more information

Olympicopolis case study: Q&A with Alex Wraight

The partner at Allies and Morrison discusses lessons learned designing a cultural quarter for London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

How did your competition-winning Olympicopolis proposal meet the requirements of a 21st-century arts and educational complex?

We think we got the balance right – on several levels, between different institutions, between a large park on one side and a busy urban quarter on the other. The composition of the whole and public realm was as important, if not more, than the individual buildings themselves. We had to create cohesion while accommodating several high-profile cultural brands. Getting that balance right is the key for success. Sejong, which will have several different national museums, will need a similar balancing act.



Olympicopolis by Allies and Morrison with O’Donnell + Tuomey, Arquitecturia, and Gustafson Porter

What material, sustainability, structural and other techniques might be appropriate for similar large-scale development in an environmentally-sensitive city such as Sejong?

Cultural sustainability is interesting here. In building on empty sites or in new places, we find it helps to think about geography and culture as a starting point. And then when designing on a tight urban site, materiality and facades becomes an especially important opportunity. These two considerations came together as we developed our schemes. We experimented with a shared palette of materials across the different buildings as a strategy. We especially thought about brick, incorporating it into the buildings in different manifestations, as a way to make these new buildings fit in their East London post-industrial context – a brickopolis. It helps to make a place feel and look right in its locality. Coincidently, we had the mayor of a Korean city visiting our studios recently and he was very interested in our work in and around Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park precisely for these reasons. Many Korean cities are facing similar issues as they shift to post-industrial uses.

How would you set about designing a new museum complex to enhance the appeal of Korea’s new administrative city both globally and nationally?

For a place like Sejong in a country with a culture as rich as Korea’s, it will be important for it to feel right for the place. You want to avoid creating an alien. It’s an especially appropriate response for a national museum complex. These buildings will be there for a long time and will play an important role in Korean life. So we would hope to avoid any token gestures or whims of fashion, but rather create something thoroughly contemporary, elegant, well made and – most importantly – distinctly Korean.



Olympicopolis by Allies and Morrison with O’Donnell + Tuomey, Arquitecturia, and Gustafson Porter