Text Jin-young Lim
Photos Yong-kwan Kim
The Hanil Cement plant in the town of Danyang, Korea, towers in front of a mountain ridge that has been descending 30 cm each year as raw material has been dug out of its base. Hanil Cement commissioned architect Byoung-soo Cho to design the Hanil Visitors Center and Guest House, a two-winged building opposite the plant, to showcase the vista so symbolic of the owner’s proud entrepreneurship.
Accommodating this vision, Cho created the ‘first impression’ of the commissioned building on the elevation on the east, facing the plant. Grappling with the task of inventing a symbol, he hit upon the idea of recycling cement and using concrete in several different ways. The inspiration led him to design the building’s east-facing façade, using fabric-foamed concrete to highlight the natural feel. Its side was even composed of gabion boxes produced from waste concrete that was created in the process of manufacturing the foamed concrete.
The challenge with the fabric-foamed concrete was to create continuous, naturally-flowing curves that would become the surface. So he fabricated a form with plywood; wrapped it with fabric; and supported the structure with a tube inserted inside. The result was a clever materialization of rock-solid, yet smoothly undulating concrete columns. Additionally, he used precast concrete units of a considerable width, tilted upwards during installation, to create the massive façade for the 7-m-tall building, which required a substantial weight and amount of concrete. To counter the bending and loading expected, the precast concrete, maximally 50 cm thick and 80 cm wide, was bolted to the structure’s main part at the middle and top, respectively, with its lowest end seated upon the building’s foundation for support.
‘Connecting sheets of fabric-foamed concrete conveys the feel of a single, monolithic mass. I could have used it as a series of single posts and had the spaces in between connect the inside and outside, providing a frame on top to highlight the plant’s silhouette in front.’ Unlike its rather monotone façade, the Guest House and Visitors Center feature a layout where massive rocks sit upon the floor, surrounded by splendid enclaves of space. The snug little garden nestled between the two wings provides a generous gateway, which the mountain ridge in the background seems to run through. ‘By designing the center as a low-lying, one-story structure, I wanted the void between the two wings to become a corridor of space, wind and light, which, at its core, corresponds with the tradition Korean architectural layout. That layout, the most accommodating of the local climate, ensures good ventilation, ample sun and seamless communication with the outside space. To me, that is the eco-friendly approach in its most Korean sort of way.’