"Soul for Seoul" is an educational village located on the banks of the Han River, which runs through the center of the south Korean capital. It is an urban village focused on rice, and where all stages, from production to consumption of this important grain, take place. The project is a proposal to solve the problems that appear during its production and processing, such as the fact that production wastes are burnt and no longer used. In this sense, the architecture of "Soul for Seoul" includes the byproducts of rice production and finds a smart and ecological way to use them as construction materials.
The theoretical research was mainly based on facts gathered during a personal local trip. Meeting with architects, local artisans and visiting many villages, thus gathering information and learning the local traditions. There are four theoretical principles on which the project is based, and all of them focus on Korean tradition, looking for answers to solve the issues raised:
1) Korean rice traditions, the process steps from production to consumption
2) The use of rice byproducts in Korean design and architecture
3) The vernacular architecture of the place called Hanok
4) The regeneration of an urban area, remembering this historical function as an agricultural site
Regarding the morphological context, the plot is located on the coast of the Han River, an area undergoing new development with the aim of generating leisure areas for the inhabitants but also for tourists. In fact, on the other side of the plot is a large residential area. A raised high traffic road separates the lot from the residential area. The connection between the lot and the residential area is made possible by subways. Historically, the banks of the Han River were known for rice production due to the very clayey soil.
The project master plan is organized with a concentric system that divides the rectangular plot into three zones. Each zone represents a phase of the rice life cycle, i.e. production, processing and consumption. The outer zone is for production, so we find the rice fields, and the central one is for consumption, so we find the restaurant. Thanks to this system, visitors have to go through the previous stages, production and processing, to get to the restaurant. In this sense it creates a didactical path, passing through the paddies and the various pavilions where rice and its waste products are processed, in order to reaches the gastronomy.
The village consists of architectural artefacts with a modular system, on the plot there are 8 structures that are divided into the three zones. The pavilions in the production zone are, for example, the laboratory for testing the rice seeds that will then be planted on site. While in the processing zone, it is possible to find workshops spaces where rice flour or fermented rice drinks are produced. Finally in the center of the site there is the restaurant, where everything produced on site can be consumed. The architecture of the pavilions in the project takes inspiration from the Hanok, becoming a modern variation of the traditional vernacular architecture. Therefore, the choice to use the characteristics of the Hanok such as the completely wooden structure with a regular mesh and the curved-beam roof reminiscent of the traditional Hanok roof geometry. The structure is made of red pine wood, a very typical construction wood in Korea. The façade construction is made of clay from the plot's soil, and insulated with rice straw. In addition, to recall the vernacular tradition, the village structures are covered with an outer layer of rice straw. This layer must be changed after each harvest and is a Korean symbol of the fact that architecture transforms with the natural process. Two facades are transparent to open the view to the rice fields.