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Competition: Seoul Animation Centre, South Korea

Seoul Metropolitan Government has announced an international competition to create a new home for its animation centre (Deadline: 14 October)

Open to teams of architects, urban designers and landscape architects, the contest seeks proposals for a new 21,000m² venue to replace the organisation’s ageing 1960s headquarters.

Planned to complete in 2019, the 43 billion KRW project is part of larger plans to improve connectivity and walking routes within the surrounding area which has been dubbed ‘Animation Town’.

South Korea

South Korea

Source: image by 쉰지식인

Seoul Animation Centre

According to the brief: ‘The facility is highly anticipated to act as the heart of the connected walking network ranging from the Seoul Station Overpass, Saewoon Arcade to Nagwon Arcade and the green network, along with the city’s cultural and tourist resources.

‘It is also expected to stage a core role of founding Seoul’s creative industry – centred around cartoons, animation, characters and the games industry – while also respecting the geographical-historic and cultural-clustering context.’

Located in Yejang-dong on the northern edge of the historic Namsan Mountain, the Seoul Animation Centre occupies four separate buildings which were constructed in 1962 and are now in need of replacement.

Founded in 1999 – the centre hosts exhibitions, education programmes and festivals and receives more than 250,000 visitors every year. Popular facilities inside the complex – which is decorated with colourful murals of cartoon characters – include a library, exhibition hall and 179-seat cinema.

South Korea

South Korea

The Seoul Animation Centre site

The project aims to double the annual number of visitors to the prominent 8,340m² site which is also due to become part of a new pedestrianised zone with outdoor events spaces and scenic routes. The new centre will feature an exhibition hall, educational facilities, offices, meeting rooms, a café, shop, play area, 300-seat cinema, library and underground car park.

The historic Namsan district – associated with book making and print forging since the 15th century – has been undergoing large-scale regeneration since the turn of the Millennium. Key improvements include the introduction of a toll for older diesel cars intended to improve air quality later next month.

Yejang-dong, north of Namsan park, was developed during the Japanese colonial era and later used as a CIA military intelligence base during the Twentieth Century. The 262 metre-high summit of Namsan Mountain, the YTN Seoul Tower communications mast, the National Theatre, a cable car and revolving restaurant are among the prominent local landmarks.

Competition judges include Sung Hong Kim from the University of Seoul and Young Jang of local practice WISE Architecture. The winning team – set to be announced on 10 November – will receive a 2.2 billion KRW contract for the design phase which is due to complete next October.

A second place prize of 40 million KRW, third place prize of 30 million KRW, fourth place prize of 20 million KRW and a fifth place prize of 10 million KRW will also be awarded.

How to apply


The registration deadline is 5pm local time on 14 October and submissions must be completed by 27 October.

Contact details

Bureau of Urban Improvement of Seoul Metropolitan Government

Tel: +82-2-2133-7619, 7620

Design Competition Management Team

Tel: +82-10-6496-736

Visit the competition website for more information

Metropolitan Arts Centre case study: Q&A with Ian McKnight

The co-founder of Hall McKnight discusses lessons learned designing a new arts centre for Belfast, Northern Ireland



Source: Image by Christian Richters

The Metropolitan Arts Centre by Hackett Hall McKnight

How did your Metropolitan Arts Centre project create a new space promoting interaction between artists and the public?

The MAC is located on the edge of Belfast City Centre, and acts as a draw that pulls people from the main shopping area and through the Cathedral Quarter. A decade ago there was very little happening in the Cathedral Quarter, though even back in the 90s in its undeveloped state, it provided vestiges of an alternative cultural scene for the city, which is still present to some degree. In the interim it has become a vibrant arts and cultural quarter, and the location and success of the MAC has been a big contributor to that shift. The building provides a new type of public space for Belfast; the foyer creates a kind of ‘L’ shaped internal street, connecting a developer led ‘Piazza’ development of ambiguous pastiche to a street that was part of the original merchant city street pattern, much of which has been obliterated. This foyer creates long diagonal views up and across balconies and galleries through 5 storeys. It’s surfaces are hard and redolent of streetscapes, and yet it’s perimeter provides intimate niches of human scale and tactile quality. This space is open, convivial and democratic; it is a comfortable space that provides a richness of detail that engages with a very wide range of people despite the restrained palette of materials.

The foyer is open to all; it is a really good café/bar, box office, workplace, public forum, performance space and gallery for the city, it makes the building legible, and draws the people of the city in and up to the open visual art galleries. It is never empty. This cultural accessibility allows the MAC to engage with a very wide audience, a role that a cultural venue must accomplish in a provincial city like Belfast in order to survive. The foyer contains a permanent art work as memorial which manages to straddle awkward territory in being meaningful, understandable, accepted by the public, and beautiful, it was also commissioned through a process in which we as architects were fully engaged. This extends the programme of the MAC into the most public part of the building, and we worked hard across a wide range of technical and curatorial issues to create galleries that have a direct spatial relationship to this foyer so that artists have the opportunity to engage directly with a flow of people who are encountering the work both intentionally and casually.



Source: Image by Christian Richters

The Metropolitan Arts Centre by Hackett Hall McKnight

What issues are important when designing a new arts centre on a dense urban site?

The question pre-supposes that a type of project has been described; but the meaning of ‘dense’ varies hugely, as do the programmes of arts centres. The issues we would consider in any urban project would range from understanding the cultural significance of the programme for the place; its relationship to the people of the city, where the audience is drawn from. It’s impossible to gain a proper understanding of a place or city that is unfamiliar during the compressed time frame of a design contest, however we have to try, and like writers and artists it’s important for architects to become highly skilled observers of the life of a place; it’s possible to gather an understanding or sense of a place without perhaps being able to articulate exactly what that is, the skill is then to reflect this in a proposal and communicate this in a way that those who are familiar with the city get a sense that on some level the place has been understood.

We try to understand the the appropriateness of expressing the identity of the institution within the wider phenomenon of the urban context; this is also a question that relates to the site, the type of art, and the city in which it is situated. At the same time we have learned how important it is to address the more prosaic aspects of these projects which are critical to the economic viability of venues and n a dense site resolving these operational considerations of access for very large vehicles and objects, storage, rehearsal, and managing changeover needs to be resolved at a conceptual level.

How would you set about designing a new home for the Seoul Animation Centre in Korea?

We would visit the site and take it from there.



Source: Image by Christian Richters

The Metropolitan Arts Centre by Hackett Hall McKnight