Instead of building another skyscraper in Seoul, the Korean IT firm Daum built their new headquarters on the island of Jeju, off the southern tip of the Korean peninsula.

Mass Studies was responsible for designing the facility.

Image copyright: Kyungsub Shin

The first stage of construction was recently completed; it’s now home to 350 of the company’s 1,500 employees.

Image copyright: Kyungsub Shin

Minsuk Cho, a principal at Mass Studios, explained: "The idea is that we did not want to deliver a completed design of a building, but rather provide a system of structures, like a set of puzzles, so that it can grow with variation."

Image copyright: Kyungsub Shin

"The design is more about the organic process than the completed result and this first completed building was to demonstrate that possibility."

Image copyright: Kyungsub Shin

The defining characteristic of that organic growth--and something that can’t be achieved in the bustling metropolis of Seoul--is expanding horizontally instead of vertically.

Image copyright: Kyungsub Shin

"Office towers were relevant for the 20th-century Taylorist work organization," Cho says, "[but] I think we have moved beyond that now."

Image copyright: Kyungsub Shin

The campus is like a puzzle, Cho says--more parts will be constructed in coming years.

Image copyright: Kyungsub Shin

A wider view of the island.

Image copyright: Yong-Kwan Kim

There are indoor and outdoor spaces, porches, theaters and more intimate places in which to collaborate.

Image copyright: Yong-Kwan Kim

Mass Studios tried to create a workspace that would foster a "Silicon Valley-like" work environment, tailored for Korea.

Image copyright: Yong-Kwan Kim

A view of the theater.

Co.Design

Mass Studies Builds A Striking HQ That Can Grow Horizontally

Instead of building another skyscraper in Seoul, the Korean IT company Daum moved to the island of Jeju.

Typically, companies move their headquarters into big cities. Daum, a Korean IT firm, is doing just the opposite. After years of being stationed in Seoul--the South Korean capital with a population density twice that of New York City--the company commissioned a new corporate campus in a decidedly more picturesque locale: an island called Jeju located off the southern tip of the Korean peninsula.

Mass Studies, the sustainability-minded Korean architect studio responsible for the headquarters, describes the company’s self-exile as a "utopian gesture." Jeju, traditionally known as a hub for tourism, has enough open space to allow for companies to spread out and develop workplaces that foster creativity and independence. The aim is to attract more tech companies to the island, establishing a sort of Korean Silicon Valley. Daum’s striking new headquarters seems like a pretty good advertisement for the opportunities that leaving the city can afford.

So far, only phase one of the new headquarters is complete--some 350 out of the company’s 1,500 employees are now stationed on the 132,000-square-meter island site. But creating something that could be adapted over time was part of Mass Studies’ vision. Minsuk Cho, a principal at the studio, explains, "The idea is that we did not want to deliver a completed design of a building but rather provide a system of structures, like a set of puzzles, so that it can grow with variations--sometimes simple, other times complex as needed--and eventually become a long linear building/campus. The design is more about the organic process than the completed result, and this first completed building was to demonstrate that possibility."

The defining characteristic of that organic growth--and something that can’t be achieved in the bustling metropolis of Seoul--is a headquarters that can expand horizontally instead of vertically. The rise of skyscraper business culture, Cho says, is something his studio actively worked against in designing Daum’s new spaces. "Office towers were relevant for the 20th-century Taylorist work organization, [but] I think we have moved beyond that now. In a way, the premise for this project resonates with Silicon Valley-style work culture and lifestyle . . . [albeit] explored in specific, Korean context."

Part of creating that type of work environment means building a headquarters with a diversity of spaces. In this regard, Cho says, Jeju was created like a village--not in the sense of high-end shopping malls or subdivisions, which just try to evoke a different era with some superficial aesthetic touches, but instead by offering a range of places for Daum employees to meet and work. There are indoor and outdoor spaces, porches, theaters, and more intimate places in which to collaborate. And yes, like any good Silicon Valley aspirant, there does appear to be a ping-pong table.

See more on Mass Studies’ site.

[Hat tip: Designboom, Images: Yong-Kwan Kim and Kyungsub Shin]

Add New Comment

1 Comments

  • Greaaaaat

    "Office towers were relevant for the 20th-century ....we have moved beyond that now."... hahah.. okay, so you have all of a sudden found more land to build on?? the whole point of building towers is to fit more on a smaller footprint.. horizontal expansion is limited and not so healthy. take a look at any larger north american city - horizontal sprawl is a huge issue.

    otherwise, nice design indeed!