New Swiss Embassy building, Seoul, South Korea

Seoul is experiencing a phase of unbridled growth, accompanied by strong densification and the establishment of new sub-centers and transport routes. This urban change is also affecting the residential district Seodaemun-gu. Low, typical Korean houses are disappearing and the new quarter "New Town" is emerging. This is where the parcel for Switzerland's new representative office is situated. Encircled by dense construction with residential towers, the embassy is like an oasis in the middle of this new quarter.

The project is a contemporary interpretation of the traditional Korean courtyard house, which has now almost disappeared from the city center. With its spiral form, the new building modestly and respectfully fits into its context, symbolizing integration and openness, that which is native and that which is foreign, as well as urban and diplomatic space. The ensemble develops along the lines of the space allocation plan, beginning with the residence oriented toward the private garden, followed by spacious representative rooms that open onto the courtyard, and finally the office with a representative entrance facade that faces the street. A surrounding projecting roof in the courtyard conceals occupants and guests from onlookers, and protects them from the weather. All rooms face the interior courtyard, which has a significant role: it connects people with each other and with nature. The embassy's park, with pines, ginkgos and cherry trees, emphasizes the respectful approach to nature.

Selection of materials
There is a clear differentiation between the building's exterior and interior design: the exterior facade is in exposed concrete, while the interior courtyard's facade is made of light-colored wood and glass. Meticulously designed details have been implemented to give the embassy special features: The exterior facade's concrete was formed traditionally using wood, in the manner of Korean handicraft. The formwork's wood grain is visible. Reminiscent of local building methods, the facade's support structure is a mullion-transom curtain wall construction, the modular subdivision of which responds to the requirements of the program with differently sized openings. The typical Korean wooden slats provide protection from the sun and also give rise to wonderful interplay between light and shadow.

Federal Office for Buildings and Logistics (FOBL), Bern

Period of time
2012 – 2018


Hélène Binet