May 02, 2006 15:19 ET

KMD Awarded Commission to Build New City Hall for Seoul, Korea

Striking Design Creates a New Architectural Icon That Reflects the City's Pride and Growing Importance as a World-Class International City

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- May 2, 2006 -- San Francisco-based architectural firm KMD, with offices and projects worldwide, is proud to announce that it has won an international design and construction competition for the new city hall in Seoul, South Korea, in partnership with Samoo Architects and Samsung Engineering Construction. The civic structure, which looks onto Seoul Plaza, a central gathering place, will be a visual symbol of the city's pride and growing leadership in the world.

The new City Hall, as envisioned by KMD's design team, will stand out as a striking, elliptical-shaped, 21-story glass tower with a unique, open form that invites interaction and discovery. During the day, the beauty of the surrounding area and the busy lives of its 10 million residents will be reflected in the structure's jewel-like façade. As dusk falls, the glowing lights of City Hall will illuminate downtown Seoul creating an enduring beacon for the city's civic pride and prosperity. The design is a unique prelude to the future of civic architecture, by challenging traditional authoritarian and historicist civic building design. It celebrates the notion of "openness" of government through design and creates a sense of place for the community.

"Our intention was to create a City Hall that would be readily accepted as a 'people's place' that is welcoming in spirit, enjoyable to visit, and perhaps most importantly, aspirational," said Ryan Stevens, Design Principle of KMD. "The new City Hall symbolizes the City's emergence as a world-class destination and it's our hope that it will provide the same sense of pride and 'ownership' that architectural icons such as the Chrysler Building in New York City and the Opera House in Sydney have given to those cities' residents."

An Historical Sense of Place

The Koreans' deep appreciation for their history as well as their hopes and confidence in the future is symbolically reflected not only in the new building design, but also in the walkways and gardens that will connect the new City Hall with many of the country's most significant and cherished landmarks that surround the site, such as the Deoksugung Palace, the Kyungbok Palace, the Namdaemoon gate and its historic shopping markets. The existing City Hall, built by the Japanese during their occupation of the country in the 1930s, and now classified as a historical preservation building, will remain adjacent to the new structure in the heart of what has historically been Seoul's "old city." Both face Seoul Plaza, a newly landscaped plaza -- the location for hundreds of years of celebrations and events.

A Welcoming Gesture, a Gracious Entrance

When seen from a distance against the backdrop of the city's skyline, the simple yet strong design of the new elliptical-shaped City Hall will appear very modern, adventurous and even futuristic. An open swath of space bisects the structure's center, creating two distinct towers and allowing an unimpeded view of the cityscape and sky beyond. In closer proximity, those towers, which grow wider from a tapered base, give the impression of someone welcoming you with open arms.

"Seoul's desire to demonstrate openness with its citizens and the world is in stark contrast to its history as a walled city," explains Sangmin Lee, a designer at KMD and a native of South Korea. "The area now known as 'the old city' was once a sacred and political center -- a place to defend and keep people out of. The country is proud of its accomplishments and emergence as an important member of the international community and they wanted this attitude to be reflected in their new civic buildings."

Upon arrival at City Hall, office workers and visitors will feel the city's gracious welcome. Those who emerge from the nearby subway station will find themselves not on the street, but rather walking through a pleasing garden to an entrance on the building's lower level where they are met by a grand stairway that leads to the main level. One will also be able to enter directly from Seoul Plaza. Both entrances lead to a light filled atrium that is softened by shade from indoor garden trees.

KMD collaborated with a diversified and highly-skilled international team of architects, engineers and educators including South-Korean-based Samoo Architects as the executive architect and Heerim Architects as the architect of record. The construction team includes Samsung Construction & Engineering, SK Construction and Ssangyong Engineering and Construction.

About KMD

KMD designs have been completed in more than 25 US states, France, Japan, Korea, Spain, Germany, England and Mexico and have won over 200 design awards, including more than thirty-five from AIA (American Institute of Architects). Notable KMD designs can be seen at Two Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills; Nadya Park in Nagoya, Japan; Jie Fang Daily News Headquarters in Shanghai; Brigham & Women's Hospital in Massachusetts; The Oakland Federal Buildings in Oakland, California; and Ford Field (Detroit Lions Stadium) in Detroit.

In addition to its San Francisco headquarters, the firm has offices in Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, New York, Mexico City, and Shanghai. Their website address is

NOTE TO EDITORS: To obtain additional visuals or to schedule an interview with Ryan Stevens or Sangmin-Lee (in Korean), please contact:

Wendy Hoffman Public Relations 415.308.4558 or, Alex Wu 415.398-5191

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