The Architectural Design of Youlhwadang Publishing House in Paju Bookcity

After the Paju Bookcity Design Guide was completed in the summer of 1999, individual publishers were deciding where to build their own buildings at Paju. Mr. Yi, the president of Youlhwadang asked us to design his publishing house with the help of Prof. Kim Jong Kyu, M.A.R.U. He wanted it to set an example for other publishers in the ways it materializes the landscape strategies of the Bookcity, Youlhwadang needed to demonstrate the ideas in the Paju Design Guide as clearly as possible. Youlhwadang is a publisher of extremely well crafted books about Korean culture. These books were setting a high standard for the architectural design of the building.

Kim Jong-kyu, Philip Christou and Florian Beigel, the architects of Youlhwadang Publishing House, and Yi Ki-ung, the president of the Publisher. (from the left) 2004.

A small agricultural building that we had seen on a visit to Jeju Island inspired the design. This was a black polythene fabric stretched over a steel frame in a walled yard built of Jeju Island basalt volcanic stone. The Korean idea of emptiness, the Korean idea about the color black, and the idea of the Bookcity buildings as an urban script in the landscape somehow lead to the strategy of carving the shape of the building out of an imaginary black box. Therefore, all the faces of the building that come to the perimeter of this box are black and the faces within the perimeter are transparent. All the madangs (outdoor rooms) have transparent faces and so have the long faces of the pavilion on top. These are the carved out surfaces. One walks through a hard blackness into a carved out soft transparency. It is our sculptural strategy.

The concept of space of the Youlhwadang building can be described as a cluster of studio houses arranged around several courtyards or madangs. The building is composed of 2 studio houses on the street side, currently with exhibition uses, that are connected by the entrance madang, and 2 studio houses on the river side, currently with office uses, each with its own courtyard, and the house of the writers in residence, also on the street side. The studio houses are also differentiated by colors. The walls and the bookshelves are painted in colors similar to the palette used by the Italian painter of Bologna of the 40 s and the 50 s, Giorgio Morandi.

He uses very subtle and soft colors. At least, one of the walls of every room is a wall of light. These walls of light are built of light diffusing material. And Youlhwadang building is a house of good rooms, where one goes from room to room, including madangs. It is not a house with an open plan and it not a house of corridors and rooms. It is very flexible in use and at the same time has strong architectural identity.

We think people can intuitively understand this form finding strategy and we hope that the building finds good acceptance.

April 2004,
Florian Beigel and Philip Christou

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The New Youlhwadang Book Hall Building

It was an absolute delight and honour for us to visit the newly completed Youlhwadang Book Hall Building in late August 2009. It is the latest of three Publishing Houses at Paju Book City that we have had the opportunity to design, two for the Youlhwadang Publishing House and one for Positive Thinking People Publishing House. These buildings sit along side each other on Bookmaker’s Street, forming a city cluster in Paju. All this is thanks to Mr. Yi Ki Ung’s passion and commitment to Korean and world art and culture and his deep interest in Paju Book City as an example of the highest quality contemporary urban and landscape design today. With the help and commitment of the architect Choi Jong Hoon, and his team in Seoul we have been able to build these buildings to a very high standard.

Library+Bookshop, Youlhwadang, Paju Bookcity, Korea. Photo by Jonathan Lovekin, 2009.

The Book Hall building makes an offering to the city in form of the Art Yard, a little public square as an extension of the public space of the street. The quality of this public space is reinforced by the architectural articulation of the building’s Art Yard façade and entrance portico. Similar to the language of Positive Thinking People Building, a little further down the street, and in a more archaic way, similar to the black Youlhwadang building, the Book Hall Building façade speaks with a friendly classical language of vertical differentiation. It is composed of closely packed buildings of different proportions and architectural character stacked next to each other or on top of each other. They are buildings made with simple walls and vertical windows. Looking more closely, one can see three or four different architectural characters in the Art Yard façade, reflecting to some extent the essential spaces behind the facades: Book Hall, Book Café, Mezzanine Lounge, and Apartment House on the upper two floors. The façade has a sense of decorum through a delicate and charming relief, cast in a light coloured concrete – a stone-like quality and a strong presence on Bookmaker Street.

The interior of the Book Hall gives a feeling of stepping into a contemplative memory place. One enters the hall from the Art Yard through a door under the entrance portico building. The bookshelves and display tables in the Book Halls of the New YoulHwaDang Building are designed in the same spirit as the architecture of the whole building. They are free standing pieces of furniture, not wall to wall shelves. On both ground floor and mezzanine levels, the book shelves and display tables have been designed as separate pieces of furniture, a family of similar elements. The proportions of these free standing bookshelves make a rhythm along the wall, not a repetitive anonymous grid. We have tried to give to the building a special charm and character, like that of a person.

We are trying to avoid standardisation and repetition in the design, to go beyond the reduction and abstraction of most contemporary international modernist architecture. For example, the new portico building stands in front of the building like a special character or body – a building figure. It is a child of the black timber clad Youlhwadang Phase 01 Building. YHD01 is also figurative, but more like a written character in a text, a little more abstract. In the design of the YoulHwaDang Book Hall Building, we are trying to give the building figure a public presence, a sense of civility and decorum. We hope it will be an important and unique public building in the city.

Florian Beigel and Philip Christou,
Feb. 2010

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An Exhibition in Swiss Architecture Museum in Basel