In the aftermath of the 1950 Korean War, which saw Seoul all but brought to ruins, the city underwent a huge renovation program that focused on practicality and the rebuilding of the city as quickly as possible. Fast-forward to today and the vibrant capital of South Korea boasts an eye-catching cityscape that features a veritable cornucopia of contemporary architectural designs. Here’s our list of five of the most impressive buildings to see in this UNESCO Creative City.
Dongdaemun Design Plaza
At the heart of the Dongdaemun fashion district is a neo-futuristic landmark designed by the award-winning British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid. Its mushroom-like exterior is instantly recognizable for its undulating shapes made from a combination of aluminum, concrete, steel, and stone. The Dongdaemun Design Plaza functions as a cultural center and has five exhibition halls. Among its most popular attractions is a design market and food court. This was Korea’s most Instagram-tagged location in 2015 and it is a major venue for the bi-annual Seoul Fashion Week. The surrounding park offers the chance to see the masterpiece at varying angles.
Ewha Womans University
View the Ewha Campus Complex from above and you’d be forgiven for thinking that it is an urban park. Arrive at ground level and you’ll soon realize that it is in fact an underground faculty building. A wide, valley-like promenade provides access to this ingenious construction by French architect Dominique Perrault. He created a tranquil education space that, despite its subterranean setting, is airy and bathed in natural light reflected in interior mirror panels. The park, which is also the campus roof, is used as a recreation area by students.
Lotte World Tower
The world’s fifth tallest building reaches a height of 1,821 feet in Seoul’s Songpa-gu district. Its tapered shape is purposely designed to appear smooth against the city’s mountainous backdrop, while the pale-hued glass is a reference to Korean ceramics. In spite of its size and thinness, the Lotte World Tower can withstand winds speeds of 178 miles per hour and magnitude-9.0 earthquakes. Occupying the 123 floors are retail units, offices, private residences, and a luxury hotel. Visitors can ride a double-decker elevator to the top-floor Seoul Sky observation deck.
Samsung Jong-no Tower
Rising above downtown Seoul is the 433-feet-tall Samsung Jong-no Tower, inaugurated in 1999 by Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly. This 33-floor office block is unique in that floors 23 through 30 have been removed, leaving an empty space topped by what at night resembles a UFO. Anyone familiar with Viñoly’s work will know that removing floors is a recurring theme: check out the 432 Park Avenue skyscraper in Manhattan. At one time there was a restaurant located on the floating upper floors, which granted fortunate diners unprecedented views of Seoul’s skyline.
Some Sevit - Seoul Floating Islands
Some Sevit is a group of three artificial floating islands situated on the Han River and built as part of the ongoing Han River Renaissance Project. The three solar-powered islands follow a theme of the flowers of the Han River and symbolize the view, life, and Earth. Some Solvit represents a seed, Some Chavit a flower bud, and Some Gavit a flower in full bloom. Suspended walkways connect the islands, which themselves are used for conferences, cultural performances, and exhibitions. Hundreds of LED lights create a magnificent light show every night. Banpo Bridge and Banpo Hangang Park are superb vantage points for observing the landmark.