14 February 2011
by Vicky Richardson
Seoul's Dongdaemun Design Plaza, or DDP, as it's more easily known, is just over a year away from completion, even though the giant steel skeleton is only just going up. This gargantuan building, won in a competition by Zaha Hadid, sits in the centre of an area full of oversized tower and sheds, most of them containing fashion markets and shopping malls. The complex is being built by Seoul Design Foundation, the organisation created during the city's reign as Design Capital in 2010.
The city authorities have poured millions of pounds into promoting Seoul as a design city. This is just one of the initiatives. The DDP will have two convention centres, exhibition halls and a learning centre with a design library.
For Zaha the building is another experiment with the idea of architecture as landscape. A wide grassy ramp will lead up to the roof. The curved sides are wrapped with an aluminium skin of 47,000 perforated panels, with LEDs shining through from behind. The scale of this place is impressive, but much as I am a Zaha Hadid fan, I'm not convinced DDP will be her finest hour. Perhaps it's too early to tell... I am certainly impressed by how tidy the building site is. the construction workers look more like astronaunts in navy blue uniforms, each with headphones and lots of flashing lights.
Part of the site is already complete. The Dongdaemun History Park and Cultural centre consists of a series of sinewy concrete buildings grouped around a landscaped park and an archeological dig. This side of the scheme, which occupies the site of a well-known baseball stadium, is much more interesting, partly because of the strange prehistoric-like forms of the trees in winter (wrapped in straw matting to protect from frost) and the bone coloured concrete.