[Diplomatic Circuit] Swiss Embassy opens hanok-inspired building in Seoul

By Park Han-na
  • Published : May 20, 2019 - 17:39
  • Updated : May 20, 2019 - 17:39

The Embassy of Switzerland has opened its new building that reinterprets hanok -- traditional Korean houses -- in central Seoul, in the hope that it will serve as a platform for cooperation between the two countries.

“This reconstruction of the embassy is a symbol of our longstanding friendship with the Republic of Korea and of Switzerland’s sincere desire to further expand our excellent and mutually beneficial relations in all fields,” Ambassador Linus von Castelmur said during a media conference in Seoul on Thursday. 

The new Swiss Embassy buiding in Songwol-gil in Jongno-gu, central Seoul (Helene Binet/ Swiss Embassy in Korea)

The three-story building is located on a site in Songwol-gil, Jongno District, which the Swiss Confederation acquired in 1974 to replace its old building that had been located there for decades.

The surroundings of the compound have changed over the years, with a nearby high-rise apartment complex completed in 2017.

“The first time we came to see the site in Seoul, the high-rise buildings were not there, but only small traditional houses around the embassy plot,” said Nicolas Vaucher, lead architect at Burckhardt+Partner, which took charge of the construction project together with Korean partner Erae Architects & Engineers.

His team decided on a design that harmonizes with the topography of the neighboring Gyeounghuigung Park so that the compound would look like an extension of its surroundings, rather than compete with high-rises. 

The new Swiss Embassy buiding in Songwol-gil in Jongno-gu, central Seoul (Helene Binet/ Swiss Embassy in Korea)

“Based on the typology of a traditional Korean courtyard house, hanok reflects the soul of the Korean people facing comprehensive digital changes while simultaneously reverting to cultural roots,” the embassy said.

The building has sustainable features, including a rainwater system that diverts water to an underground tank for use in watering the garden and cleaning. In addition, a geothermal heating and cooling system as well as solar panels on the roof have been installed to save on energy costs, according to Vaucher.

To commemorate the opening, the embassy ran a series of events under the theme of “Pushing the Limits -- Celebrating Swiss Excellence and Innovation in Korea.

The four-day program that kicked off Wednesday included a concert featuring a quartet from the Sinfonieorchester Basel; a Swiss-Korean startup workshop; and a dance performance by Swiss choreographer Tamara Bacci and Korean contemporary dance company LDP.

“This new embassy is not an empty shell. It’s a platform and a tool that we’re going to do many things with our partners from Switzerland and from Korea,” the ambassador said.

By Park Han-na (