28 jan 14  | Architect

The New Seoul Skyscraper

By Caroline MassieThe FKI tower designed by AS+GG serves as a testament to how creativity and technology drive the Korean economy.

The state of the South Korean economy remains gloomy. According to the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI), the next few months are uncertain for Korean businesses, due to unfavorable economic conditions spurred in part by anxiety over the anticipated U.S. plan to reduce its bond-purchasing program by $10 billion next month.

Despite the economic malaise, the FKI is forging ahead with an economic reform plan—and a statement-making new headquarters designed by Chicago-based Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GG).

Last week, the firm announced the public opening of the FKI building in Seoul.

It is one of a number of new developments for the FKI, a nonprofit organization that promotes free market economic development and lobbies the Korean government on major economic issues. Recently, South Korea entered a bilateral cooperation agreement with Switzerland on trade, science, technology, and industrial innovation. FKI chairman Huh Chang-soo—who also serves as chairman of the energy and construction company GS Holdings—attended the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, to promote what one FKI official described as Korea's "creative economy."

The new FKI skyscraper designed by AS+GG serves as a testament to how creativity and technology drive the Korean economy. The building, which dominates the Seoul skyline, is a hallmark of sustainable design, especially its solar-electric façade.

The 50-story tower features a curtain wall marked by photovoltaic panels integrated into certain spandrel areas of the façades. Canted 30 degrees upward toward the sun, these spandrel panels maximize the amount of energy collected, generating enough power to help maintain electrical systems throughout the building.

Vision panels placed below the spandrel panels are canted 15 degrees downward to minimize direct sun. Together, the alternating spandrel and vision panels create a striking rippled façade—a creative and technical achievement.

“The result is a unique folded exterior texture that is both purposeful and distinctive," said founding partner Adrian Smith, FAIA, in a press release.

A rooftop atrium features more custom photovoltaic panels angled for maximum production of solar energy for the building. And with floor to ceiling windows, the building offers an abundance of natural light, opening up the office spaces and corridors to extensive views of the neighboring Yeoido Park, the Han River, and the surrounding city.

The sculptural podium piece, open for public use, includes a banquet hall, central restaurant, and conference room—available to host international conferences— further promotes the tower's identity as a centerpiece for the city.

The tower also includes several indoor atrium spaces featuring natural elements of wood, bamboo, and other native plants. AS+GG collaborated with the engineering firms New York-based Thornton Tomasetti and Chicago-based Environmental Systems Design, as well as the local firm Chang-Jo Architects, on the project.

“The tower features one of the most efficient solar electric façades in the world in a cost-effective manner, proactively expanding Korea's goal of advancing renewable energy generation in buildings,” said founding partner Gordon Gill in a release. While Seoul's current economic forecast may be cloudy, its future is driven by sunshine.