A cultural park consisting of exhibition and educational facilities and a columbarium to commemorate the victims of the Sewol ferry disaster that occurred on 16 April 2014.
When reading a building the question “Is it a cube or a pyramid?” can be a useful starting point, as most buildings fall into one of these categories. The cube is a more conceptual form. Having no distinction between top, bottom, and sides, it seems to belong both anywhere and nowhere, regardless of gravity, landscape, and the elements. It belongs more to the abstract space of the mind than to any particular site. A pyramid, on the other hand, stands with its largest face planted firmly in the ground, and dissolves to a point in the sky, suggesting a transition from earth to heaven—from the material to the spiritual world. It possesses both weighty physicality and a feeling of transcendence that the cube lacks. For this reason it became the basic form for our proposal as we felt it to be a more suitable space for mourning.
Water is the essential symbolic element of the project, deriving from the nature of the disaster, and is used as a medium by which to commemorate the victims. It flows around the building and enters the interior as light. Light that is reflected in the water bounces upward to illuminate the expansive underside of the roof, animating the above-ground spaces with the water’s surface. Light that is transmitted through the water enters the Enshrinement Hall, which sits below ground as stipulated in the brief. 250 watertight windows, one for each of the high school students who died in the accident, line the perimeter of the Enshrinement Hall giving views of the sky and a bluish, rippled light to the students’ final resting place. 250 urns containing the students’ ashes face outward from recesses in a fluted concrete wall, the pattern of which is repeated on the roof.
The siting of the Memorial Park is respectful of its context in a number of ways—by aligning with the west-east axis established by the Industrial History Museum, and preserving the Museum’s visual and spatial connections to the lake; by using existing pathways and access points to form a new public plaza; and by merging with existing landscape to the east and south of the site. From the site’s main entrance at the corner of Hwarang-ro and Hwajeongcheonseo-ro the building’s pyramidal form makes a strong skyward gesture. A fountain greets visitors at the south end of the site, while the flow of the pool suggests movement northward to the lake.
Passing through the Memorial Gardens on their approach to the building visitors get a view upwards into the huge roof structure that spans from the ground floor to the rooftop. The eaves extend two meters over the water’s surface on all sides, catching light reflected in the pool. Entering the building across a bridge one perceives at once the vast vertical interior of the building and the effects of light from the water’s surface. Rows of small watertight windows below the water’s surface provide views into the Enshrinement Hall below. First-time visitors, having been received at the ground floor, enter this semi-underground space via the video room. Openings in the first floor at the corners of the building provide alternative access points as well as more generous daylight and views upward to the vast roof space above.
From the Enshrinement Hall visitors are conveyed via the large passenger/freight elevator to the rooftop. This secluded outdoor space houses part of Social Memories, a space for remembering the disaster through landscape and sculptural elements. The rooftop is anticipated to be an important fifth facade that will be highly visible to new apartment towers on adjacent land to the east. Mechanical equipment is therefore carefully coordinated to fit discreetly into the bulkheads, leaving the rest of the rooftop open for public programming. The City, if it so wishes, can host private events here, having direct access to storage and other back-of-house areas via the service core. Among the various participatory activities on the roof one is permitted a panoramic view of the surrounding landscape and neighborhoods. Danwon High School, alma mater of the deceased students, is visible to the northeast.
Leaving the rooftop, visitors descend to Special Exhibitions on the third floor, which opens on both sides to 5-meter-wide terraces—the “rooftops” of the story below. This vast interior is animated throughout the day by the sun’s arc, with the east and west halves of the building always complementing each other at any given time, one side receiving light reflected from below by the Memorial Pool, and the other lit from above through the large void in the roof. In both cases one’s view to the outside is limited to sky above and water below. Proceeding along the terraces one passes the Physical and Hands-on Activity Rooms at the second floor before returning at last to the ground floor. Spaces not part of the main visitor flow (Library, Lecture Hall, Offices, etc.) are kept separate from the main circulation.