New Babel

by ma0now

International Design Competition for Yeonsu-gu Youth Center, 2022 | Runner-up

Layering diversities

The program for the Yeonsu-Gu Youth Center is built on a variety of activities that will make the richness of it, but at the same time require a careful distribution being many of them incompatible for the situations they will create: while some of them need to be in strong relation with the public space of the city and open to free access and chance encounter and will produce lively and noisy environments, not to mention those which will have loud music as a constituent element, others will require calm and silent spaces where to gather, discuss and focus; others will be with a more selective access, because of the type of activities that will host, or the materials and hardware they contain.

The project proposes therefore to organize this extraordinarily diverse sequence of collective activities following a vertical gradient from the most public and open to those with a selective access and dedicated to specific activities, regrouping the program upon categories that can better highlight the character and meaning of each environment.

Each of these environments is treated as a different building with its own architectural identity, related to the type of activity that it hosts, and composed in a sequence that develops vertically the diversity of a small city, the city of youth of Yeonsu-Gu, connected by a line of stairs that develop as a vertical street.
The blocks are staggered in order to offer to each environment an elevated public space and multiply the open space for the surrounding communities in a lot densely built. The sequence of terraces become public thanks to another line of stairs that serve at the same time as secondary fire escape, but mostly as a public promenade from the ground level to higher terrace.
The Youth Center becomes more than a building, a vertical Campus that reflects in the diversity of its consittuent elements the variety of languages that our society and its most promising components will express.

The Golden Link

This sequence of peculiar and recognizable activities is sewed by two continuous paths that flow interconnected indoor and outdoor, linking together the most public places of the center – the terraces, the distribution hallways and decks in the building.
This structure is highlighted by the use of golden finish that culminates in a golden perforated metal structure that envelopes and masks the last floor where part of the technical installations of the center will be located, that looks like a crowning of a quite extraordinary sequence of collective activities.

View from the hall | Meet space


01. Meet

At the ground level, in continuity with the street and facing to the east the future housing development, there is the major public space of the Center that flows through the building in what we have called the Meet environment, a “transparent” group of spaces where the youngsters can gather and play freely.
Connected through a generous flight of steps, at the first level of the Meet cluster visitors will find the Karaoke rooms and the Bakery space “extracted” from the Specialized Center in order to maximize the potential relations that it could develop with the public condition of these first floors, the café and the lobby at the ground level, and the Gathering hall at the third floor – offering its baked products to a wider audience in special occasions.

Ground floor plan / Meet

02. Perform

The program for the Youth Center contains a series of performative activities with different functional requirements such the access of a large number of visitors, functional flexibility and soundproofing, that are therefore grouped together at level +2 and +3, in direct spatial continuity with the access lobby to which are connected by the large flight of stairs.

The roof of the sports facility is the first large elevated public space of the Center. Furnished with movable tree pots that can screen the sunlight from the south, it can potentially be used as a further performative space where to organize film screening, spectacles and so on.

The skin of this block of activities, that is glazed in continuity with the previous one, is screened by a grid of perforated metal panels that shade the building during the day and reveal, as a translucent stage curtain, its performative activities during the night.

Second floor plan / Perform

03. Create

The “core” of the building, placed symbolically halfway between the more open and chaotic and the more calm and organized parts of the building, is what we have called the Create space, where all the activities of the Specialized Center that have to do with a making experience are grouped together.
This is the most flexible and open space of the center, wanting to multiply the possible interactions between different activities and disciplines, a transdisciplinary space where the less the separations divide the space, the more the cross fertilization can happen.
This maker space is an outlook on the surroundings, it is fully open on the landscape on the four sides, to reconnect creative practice with the widest horizon of this city of the future.
The outdoor space of the Maker zone can be used as an open-air workshop or for setting temporary exhibitions of the artworks produced indoor.

The Create space
Fourth floor plan / Create

04. Learn

Just upstairs of the Maker space we have two stories of rooms dedicated to more organized and calm activities, such as the classrooms that can have a close and fruitful relation with the space of creation – theory and practice one over the other…
The dense and regular spacing of the windows allows for a great future flexibility of the rooms, adjusting their sizes following changes in the functional requirements of the building. Also, the narrowness of the windows acts as an architectural screening of sunlight.

Fifth floor plan / Learn

05. Organize

The last floor of the building is for the directional activities of the center, and it is structured with an open space facing the last terrace of the building – again an outdoor extension of the indoor activities, and a space for greenery to screen the sunlight from the south.

Seventh floor plan / Organize
Transversal section
Transversal sections
East elevation

Sport Facilities

The building for the gym and the pool, while functionally separated from the Youth Center, is part of the same narrative and structure, and it is in close proximity with its most compatible activities such as the café at the ground floor on the corner of the sport facility entrance.
This building within the building is characterized by concrete walls that emerge from the ground with a triangular shape, creating large V-shaped windows that maximize exposure and lighting at the upper level, where privacy is less of a problem,
At the ground level, accessible from the lobby, there is a balcony overlooking the pool to let visitors and parents assist at swimming and diving lessons and races, and the changing rooms for the upstairs gym.
The pool at level -1 has a generous triple height that allows the installation of three diving platforms at +3, 5 and 7,5 meters of height from the water surface.
The structure of the roof is made of V-shaped trusses that will contain the electrical and conditioning systems.

The gym at level + 1 has the space for one indoor badminton field, two table tennis and a room for other gym activities. Possibly this space can be expanded with a closed balcony overlooking the pool, where a sequence of fitness equipment could be installed.

The pool with the gym
New Babel