A new public realm for the Arcloud Shopping Mall in Hanam Gamil

Arcloud is a large mixed-use development located at the foot of the Geomdansan mountain on the eastern edge of Seoul. It includes housing, commercial, recreational, and educational facilities – is tied together by a string of large parks and a green corridor that encircles and interlaces the site. The Arcloud shopping mall, its name somewhat deceiving, since it encompasses much more: it is a modern hybrid city block, a stacked city that combines retail, housing, public facilities, underground parking, rooftop parks and a central plaza- aiming to become the lively centre of this new Seoul residential area.

green community hub

When asked to design the public realm for the shopping mall, we resisted the temptation to view it as a piece of nature within the shopping mall. Rather we saw it as a green urban central park plaza, serving the entire community. A unique space, conveniently located at the intersection of a network of green parks. A new public space that is inviting to all users; to take a break from daily routine, to spend time with friends and family, to play, be active, to socialise and to be enticed to go shopping.

a stacked city

The lay-out of the public space, with direct horizontal and vertical access to a wide variety of functions, creates the experience of being in a dynamic, vertically stacked city.
We counterbalanced this urban richness and density by introducing a softer layer that pays homage to the landscape of Seoul. The hills and mountains dominate the city, both in a geographical as in a cultural sense. We envisioned the plazas to have a similar green and rolling quality.
The landscape story is shown through the use of greenery and materials directly connected to the surroundings, linking back the public space to the broader context.

three central cores

The strategically placed hills – green knolls of Korean shrubs and tall pine trees – form a rolling landscape and help frame and organise the entire space. They create two distinct plazas – one dedicated to play and the other for events – whilst respecting the need for clear sight lines and accessibility to the adjacent retail units. The third main core is the atrium. Initially intended as circulation space, it was activated as performance stage, cinema, and playground.

play and community plazas

In line with the brief, we envisioned the plazas of the mall to be the new public realm for the Arcloud community: attractive and inviting spaces, aimed at celebrating life’s rhythm. The mall offers diverse atmospheres, changing throughout the day and seasons. It features multifunctional event spaces and a splash pool.

Inspired by Korean wrapping cloth called “Bojagi”, a distinct floor pattern contrasts with the softer hills and visually connects the three main public zones. The pattern’s graphic lines are integrated into the paving design, creating an appealing and playful whole.

Arcloud: an interlinking and interactive sculpture

Floating above this varied public landscape, and at some points touching it, we conceived a lightweight and cloud-like structure connecting the main functional cores. It is a transparent, playable and interactive sculpture that engages visitors during day and night-time with an integrating atmospheric lighting system.

The structure visually links multiple levels, accessible from different floors that connect people, places and activities. Rising from the atrium, it stretches outside going towards the two main plazas.

The idea for the sculpture ‘floating’ through the mall’s public space was developed from the client’s vast set of demands and functions to be hosted.
Since the early stages of the design process, we went for the idea of rising one strong shape that could hold and tie together all the demands, instead of designing solitary solutions for each space.

The Arcloud has the appearance of a floating, amorphous sculpture – amorphous on the outside, geometric on the inside – and so, able to self-support on long spans. This structure has a great potential: It can be the perfect setting and carrier grid of an art installation or for an outdoor performance, involving light spectacle and even projections.

Seoul as metaphor

It is hard to pinpoint the essence of Seoul in a single work or even a sentence. It truly is a multi-layered and multi-faceted metropolis, simultaneously steeped in tradition and future oriented, densely populated but still reasonably green. Its inhabitants as car loving as they are outdoorsy, and its geography varied, from the flatlands along the plains of the river Han to the rolling hills and mountains that surround the city. We took all these notions and observations into consideration when designing, ensuring we created a public area – a neighbourhood hub – that would celebrate daily life, therefore echoing, and be as rich, layered and dynamic as the city of Seoul itself.

Other landscape architecture offices involved in the design of landscape: studio BLAD
Architecture offices involved in the design: DaeWoo engineering & construction, Uri Environmental, Walter Ryu (external collaborator), INPACT (external collaborator)

Location: 131-1 Gami-dong, Hanam-si, Gyeonggi-do, Seoul, South Korea

Design year: 2020

Year Completed: 2023

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