Open Gate

Suncheon-si, Jeollanam-do, South Korea | 5,500 m2
Art Centre, Visitor Centre and a new Yeonja-Ru.
WA Designed Award

Project Information

The proposal for the new Suncheon Art Platform is strategically placed amidst historical and cultural trails along the old Suncheon Wall, acting as a new cultural hub and gateway for the Old City. Dynamic and diverse, it will revitalise Suncheon’s cultural and social life for its citizens and future visitors. As a new art centre, visitor centre and outdoor transformative garden and event space, it will connect to and engage with the city. Multiple cultural, educational and community events will strengthen the city’s identity and establish it as the most important cultural destination in the region.

We propose a symbolic building that makes a clear reference to the history of Suncheon. Both simple and functional, the concept derives from the circular city wall with four entrance gates that enclosed and protected the Old City. The new building inverts this idea, to protect the natural habitat from the ever expanding city. Designed as a circular form raised on one side, it opens its interior space to welcome the city as an ‘open gate’. Unlike the original wall with its four restrictive access points, the multiple openings and its raised form provide permeable urban spaces that link the interior to the external public spaces and the wider city context.

The external façade of white concrete with floor to ceiling glass provides clear open views of the city. The inner glass façade with its strategically positioned brises soleil, will frame and define the interior garden and community space. Interior spaces are linked through gently ramping surfaces under a complex curving roof. The building’s circular form allows for a flexible arrangement of spaces of varying sizes, creating a unique framework for the museum’s art and the visitor centre. Visitors are free to navigate these composite and seamless spaces that house a network of services including digital exhibitions, multi-purpose and professional facilities, information gathering, social and study spaces and outdoor garden/event spaces. The loading and parking areas are to the northwest of the site, with ground floor loading bays and basement car parking connecting vertically to the new building above, and horizontally to the underground shopping area.

The landscape design is based on two principal ideas: a global intention applied over the entire site, with a garden at its centre that makes reference to Suncheon, and the seminal work Several Circles by the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky, which inspires the overall landscape proposal. The interior garden is conceived as a public, egalitarian ‘living room’ for all, and features a conceptual urban map of Suncheon, scaled and oriented to the site in accordance with Korean geomancy. Specific areas are designated for rocks and water, areas of vegetation and spaces for cultural events and festivals. The central green oasis is seen as a flexible dynamic and open space, fostering a new biodiversity that will link the mountains to the wetlands. To protect this public space from the trafficked street, the landscape is raised to provide a natural barrier as a new public and urban amphitheatre, with the cantilevered building above adding an element of tension.

The new Yeonja-Ru has been designed as a thought provoking lightweight circular footbridge, reflecting the original gate that lifted the spirit through an elevated view. It maintains its spiritual and architectural function overlooking the Ok-Cheon Stream and the Old City, with a delicacy that contrasts with the massive gate that once stood here, conveying a delicate memory of the past and providing a vision for the future.

The sustainability of the project has been considered in the development of the design. The partially exposed concrete envelope introduces the required thermal mass, and the natural/displacement ventilation and highly efficient lighting systems reduce the overall energy consumption to provide a passive internal environment. Digitally controlled external sunshades respond to and protect the interiors from the intense heat/solar gain and the resulting energy savings provide the required cooling. The design of the roof is inspired by the Korean traditional Hanok. This makes efficient use of the rainfall through rainwater harvesting and the reuse of grey water. The soft landscaping acts as a filter to collect and store rainwater for irrigation. Allocated areas for water storage and technical plant have been included in the design.

The new Art platform will inspire residents through research, preservation, exhibits and education. It will provide a welcoming and accessible place for all, regardless of age or ability. Open Gate will be an attractive and serene venue for individual retreats and community gathering, a place to connect or disconnect, a place to learn, a place to dream, a place to engage and be engaged, a place for art and all manner of imaginings. Within the city it will be a new symbol to represent the unity of Suncheon citizens.

As Kandinsky noted, ‘the circle is the synthesis of the greatest oppositions. It combines the concentric and the eccentric in a single form and in equilibrium. Of the three primary forms, it points most clearly to the fourth dimension.’

Name: Open Gate Art Platform
Architects: Matteo Cainer Architects
Location: Suncheon-si, Jeollanam-do, South Korea
Programme: Art Centre, Visitor Centre and a new Yeonja-Ru.
Client: The City of Suncheon
Project Size: 5,500 m², Site Area: 10,514 m²
MCA Principal: Matteo Cainer
MCA Team: Daniella Persson, Vasiliky Mavrikaki, Caterina Cicognani, Francesco Messina, Barbara Stefán, Daana Bolot
Awards: WA Designed Award, WAN finalist


Suncheon-si, Jeollanam-do, South Korea | 5,500 m2
Art Centre, Visitor Centre and a new Yeonja-Ru.
WA Designed Award