The Big Swirl

International Competition for Architectural Ideas Suncheon Art Platform

Suncheon, Korea

Design Period : Apr. 2016 - May. 2015

Architect : Simplex Architecture

Landscape Architect : Haemee Han, Yunsun Shim


Originally called Gam-pyeong or Seung-pyeong, Suncheon has unique geographic, historic, cultural and ecologic context. Like how its original names were derived, the city of Suncheon is situated in gentle topography surrounded by mountains and streams. With these diverse surrounding landscape scenes, the City of Suncheon is renowned as an ecological city, domestically and internationally.

The site of art plaza has many critical historic features. Yeonja-ru, the south gate of old town, functioned as a place for local joint meeting. Through many years in history, its scenic beauty of the castle, waterfront and surrounding nature made it appear in various literary works.

Adjacent to the historical remains such as Suncheonhyanggyo and Palmabi, the site is also near by the cultural street, a fashion street and Jungangro underground shopping mall. As a part of long-term urban regeneration projects, the site will be developed as a hub and a gateway to the old downtown of Suncheon city. Moreover, a variety of downtown regeneration projects are well under way around the city, utilizing its abundant historical and cultural resources.





This design strategy is intended to converge these multi-layered contexts of the city into the site. And by diverging them out to our site, it becomes a core of Sucheon's history, geography, culture, and ecology. Through our design actions, the Suncheon art plaza becomes not only a place for art appreciation, but also will be transformed as a landmark for the citizens and visitors who will come to experience and learn both sites's humanistic and ecological context. 

'Big Swirl'' is our new interpretation of 'Ru'.

Like the function of 'Yeonjar-ru' in history, the new 'Ru', encourages visitors to witness Suncheon's on-going history by experiencing panoramic view of surrounding landscape from neighboring downtown to Ok Cheon stream. Within the 'Big Swirl', heterogeneous elements of the city will be closely linked together as a united entity. Blurring the boundary between landscape and architecture, the interior space such as museum, visitor center and cafeteria and the exterior space such as entrance plaza, water plaza and community garden are closely interconnected. Inspired by its gentle topography of the old downtown area, we propose to have moderate-sloped open space all around the site as a base.

Starting from simple flat circular platform, we lifted up three spots for building entrances and programs which results an undulating platform. This surface will be then fragmented by "thread" units. Each thread is simply placed in parallel direction but when they converge and diverge, they create spaces for various landscape and architectural programs.  

The Big Swirl is consisted of five major plazas; Main Cultural Plaza, Water plaza, community garden, yeonja-ru walk, and entrance promenade.

The cultural plaza is main center plaza of Big Swirl. In cultural plaza, we propose to have flexible activities throughout seasons and years. While it is accessible from multiple directions, its undulating thread units become open space, seats, green strips and bridge walk. Consisting four concepts of activities (art, social, play, and lounge), the cultural plaza becomes a must-go landmark for community and visitors of Suncheon. As an art core, the whole cultural plaza becomes exhibition platform for outdoor public arts where local and international artists are invited to display their artworks. As a social core, gentle sloped zone of cultural plaza provides open space for local/international festivals including musical concerts and community market. As a center for play, both undulating and flat surface zones of the plaza perform as a sports playground such as skatepark and iceskating link. As a lounge court, visitors and neighbors are invited to be seated and relaxed anytime at undulated surface zones where the threads become seat steps.

Water plaza is considered as a main entrance of Big Swirl.  It connects pedestrians from central road to art/visitor center. It is mostly open yet provides several landscape features such as water jet fountain, "swirl planter-bench" and glass floor strips which welcome visitors to the plaza. Community garden is a shade garden for community. It is more intimate place than any other spots in the site. Each lifted-up planters gives plenty number of seats for visitors while a grove of linden trees gives refreshing environment to the site. Located adjacent to the central road, entrance promenade is highlighted by a row of light masts which welcomes pedestrians from underground shopping mall and neighborhoods.

Yeonja-ru walk is a new raised walk way with wetland terrace underneath. Wetland terrace displays native wetland plant species which gives not only visual attraction but also ecological function as a natural urban runoff water filtering system. In a larger perspective, we extended Suncheon's interest on ecology to Big Swirl. Urban runoff from adjacent streets and the site will flow to terraced wetland at Yeonjaru walk before entering Ok-Cheon. Run off on Cultural plaza will be drained and collected at "center ring" which provides water for greenwall inside of art center courtyard. At both areas, visitors will witness and learn process and outcome of natural water system. 

The building entrances created by the lifted platform lead visitors to each different program. The northeast entrance in front of the water plaza is the main entrance of the building, where the main lobby and the visitor center are located. The spiral ramp descending from the lobby leads to the art center located below. The circular movement of the “Big Swirl” continued from the art platform above allows the landscape, architecture, and interior to become unified components.

In addition to the ramp that connects the main lobby with the art center, there is another ramp that connects the art center with the museum shop above. The museum shop, located in front of the community garden on the northwest of the site, not only functions as a store, but also as a community space integrated with a public library where the residents and visitors can participate.

Overlooking the Okcheon Stream and the old city downtown, one of three lifted platforms is new Yeonja-ru, a reminiscent of the old Yeonja-ru but transformed into the language of "threads". 

Just as an old Yeonja-ru was used as a place for the spiritual discipline and gathering spots, the new Yeonja-ru will attract people and become a social gathering spot for the public. Under the new Yeonja-ru, there is a cafeteria open to the general public, which is connected to the intermediate level of the ramp that connects the museum shop with the art center.