Seoul Foreign Middle School Library Designed by Ennead Architects,
The Seoul Foreign School campus is located on a hill overlooking Yeonhui-dong,
a place from which to witness a new trend in education.
Where ancient and modern buildings with a gap of 40 years in one place,
show the flow of the times like antique materials.
Relatively older middle school buildings of the repetition type are an example of the past,
when repetitive classrooms and memorized education were considered the norm.
In contrast, the recently completed high school building designed by New York-based Ennead Architects is a new benchmark for education in the future.
There is plenty of ‘breathing’ as well as the classroom here,
including spacious corridors, lounges and flexible study spaces.
Seoul Foreign Middle School Library Design Competition
The project was revealed as a work linking these two eras with these opposing ideologies,
through the design guidelines announced in the first phase of the nomination competition.
The new library had to satisfy both practicality and ideals,
and at the heart of the challenges presented by the guidelines was the requirement to convert the first floor of a half-buried 35-year-old middle school building.
The first floor was used as a central IT office on campus, which was used as an open test parking lot.
And it was impossible to create a changing space by removing all the walls because there was an IT server room in the center.
As the server room occupied the center of the space like a huge boulder,
it was in a position to be unstoppable because it was responsible for the entire school network system.
Because of this limitation the library was planned as ‘buildings within buildings’,
connecting spaces for individuals and spaces for different groups in the school through the use of existing divided spaces.
Looking at the first floor facade, the facade is not treated with a simple glass surface
so that it can connect to the campus without duplicating the clarity of the entire building facade.
The overhanging cube-shaped windows create a space of depth for students to occupy,
and reflect sunlight by drawing it deep into the building.
Students can also sit on either side of the built-in chairs in the facade or on the garden deck directly in front of the window to read a book,
creating a reciprocal relationship between the library and campus interior.
The suite is part of each viewing window and also serves as a space for students to sit right next to the campus corridor, as well as another classroom space for teachers and library staff.
The library’s main circulation line is behind the facade,
which connects the production room on the east side of the building and the stair room on the west side.
As the reading spaces between the walls made of bookshelves and the reading spaces stand against the bay windows,
this space feels like a city street with its adherence to the original practicality of the corridor.
Moreover, since the green room and glass conference room are used for video shooting together in the library and production room,
they naturally form a connection point between the two programmes.
The heart of the library is a wide open public space, and in keeping with the school’s sustainability policy,
all chairs are recycled from the currently demolished high school library.
Semi-circular sofas can also be rearranged according to needs, such as public lectures,
large classes or regular reading places.
Seoul Foreign Middle School Library Designed by Ennead Architects
The mysterious landscape created through the glass wall of the existing server room,
is the biggest conceptual feature of this space.
A contrast is created between the world of analog books and the digital ether of modern information and communication,
by revealing the basic facilities of the school.
A blue digital “depth” reading space next to the server room and inviting tungsten lamps illuminating the common space,
emphasize the space’s narrative.
By comparing different eras in this way, students can think about the idea of old and new.
The three meeting rooms facing the common space have a canopy and facade like a building in the city,
the product of a more emphatic concept of ‘buildings within buildings’.
The three rooms become a porous space with all the doors open,
giving the effect that the common space extends beyond the wall room.
In one meeting room, an angled mirrored glass window is installed to illuminate the bookshelf from the inside in the next corner.
This allows librarians to keep a close eye on students without intrusive surveillance cameras.
The bookcases, desks and chairs from the former library were reused for the bookshelves that occupy the southern quadrant of the library.
The desk is placed in the center and the bookshelves are arranged in tiers like the Saint Genevieve Library in Paris designed by Henri Labroust,
rather than the bookshelves are arranged in a row.
The bookshelves were placed according to the height to show the books as much as possible,
and in the corners of the bookshelves, a reading bed was placed on the second floor
so that the students could be integrated into the books.
It quickly became a playground and learning space for students,
making it the most popular reading space in the library.
This project is based on a larger research topic, which is how to repurpose an “old” functional type of building.