We were charged with designing a center for new media art within an existing 500 square meter (5000sf) passage way in the Chungmu-ro subway station in Seoul, Republic of Korea. The choice of the subway passage as a center for art manifests increasing desire to overlap multiple functions into public spaces that were previously mono-functional. New media, communication technology an virtual space have transformed social and economic interaction, physical space, the relationship between public and private space and generated new spatial typologies.

Restaurants are used for work, offices for leisure, homes for shopping, etc. Mass transit is no longer just a line connecting two functions; technology allows the extension of these functions into the line transforming it into a new entity. The business person going to work can begin working on the subway, making phone calls, responding to email and writing reports as if already in the office.

The site presented many challenges. The operation of the subway station demands that the passageway be open at all times. The spaces in the media center are open to the public during certain hours but secured at others. We had to maintain the passageway while simultaneously creating a destination. The existing structure, electrical and mechanical systems had to be maintained while adding new lighting and the latest electronic display technology including a new theatre and digital exhibit space. Our design achieved these goals without compromise.

Exploiting the linear quality of the existing corridor, we created a kaleidoscopic space. The kaleidoscope offers a model of the physically limited space that simultaneously creates a changing, perpendicular, deep space through movement and reflection. The experience of depth and amplitude allows both the idea of passage (travel) and destination (arrival) to exist simultaneously. The compositional elements in a kaleidoscope move to create different mirrored patterns. In our project the occupant provides the movement; elements reconfigure themselves in relation to the viewer’s movement creating a multi-direction, boundless and dynamic interactive experience.

The entire space is a mediating device. Projection and reflection physically mediate the activities in the space, in juxtaposition to the electronic mediation of the artwork. Glass, mirrors, polished surfaces and reflective membranes interact with the occupant to create multiple images or views of both the occupants and the space. The viewer is constantly made aware of his/her position within the space and of the relationship between reflected spaces and physical spaces. The coexistence of electronic and physical mediation enriches the experience and brings to the forefront universal questions of location, time and point of view. The project includes a lounge/ library, a private screening area, office, editing facilities and editing classroom, a theatre/ auditorium and an exhibition space. All of these spaces are open to the public at different times allowing the entire space to be used at once or for different areas to be used independently. This flexibility also allows users to move through the entire institution sequentially, to pop into individual rooms, or to bypass the whole institution. It provides the client with a very flexible space that can be used in many different ways at different times or simultaneously. The auditorium theatre also opens completely to the main exhibition space to form one large space for parties or other big events.