Seoul National University Arts Research Center Wayfinding

Merit Award 2017

The Seoul National University Arts Research Center is a shared-use facility for undergraduate and graduate students in the College of Fine Arts and the College of Music. The building is constructed in a modern style as an L-shaped steel frame with a glass atrium at the center that serves as the core of the structure and passageway to access the various parts of the facility.

The structure is built on the slope of a hill without a designated ‘ground-floor’ level as there are entrances and exits on each floor where the building meets the hillside. Students, faculty and visitors enter the building in relation to which part of the campus they are approaching the building from, so there is no clearly defined area to welcome and direct them to their destination, which leads to confusion.

In order to find the best possible wayfinding solution for this complex and unique space, the YiEUM Partners team began by collaborating with a team of students at SNU to conduct a thorough analysis of the facility, its access points, foot traffic heat-maps, students’ daily academic schedules, and the facility’s location in relation to the campus. Surprisingly, it was found that most students did not enter on the ‘first’ floor of the structure, and would rarely enter and exit the structure through the same door or even the same floor. Interviews with students and faculty further revealed that, though they had been using the facility regularly, they would often feel disoriented, making it difficult for them to coordinate meetings within the facility and to give directions to visitors.

After much deliberation and consideration for the unique challenges faced, the design team decided to utilize the unique structural characteristics of the building and its sloping design to enhance the effectiveness and presence of the wayfinding solution, which was centered around the atrium that sits in the center of the building, and is the most common point of entry.

The first issue the team addressed was how to help users in determining which floor they were on, by placing wayfinding graphics on the floor at the top of each staircase. This made it possible to always determine which floor you are on by simply looking down at the floor directly below you. All graphics were designed and placed in consideration of natural viewing angles and distances for users from every point of approach to maximize the presence of wayfinding signage while minimizing environmental impact on the look and feel of the space.

The rough finish on the bare concrete walls and floors, along with the acutely shaped glass fragments on the steel frame, create a cold environment in the atrium. In order to complement the space, the graphic design applications applied a bold color scheme that contrasts with the environment in a harmonious way. It is presented in a lemon-yellow color to naturally draw attention to itself while lending a sense of energy and liveliness to the otherwise cold and empty space. The main wayfinding signage was designed to appear as though it is simply leaning against the concrete wall. The signage also serves as a beacon, against the dark and cold concrete structure. The sign was positioned and placed in a way that makes it possible to identify it from any floor, serving as a visual reference point as well. A cohesive style was implemented in all typographic design, pictograms and map projections.

Since applying the wayfinding solution to the Arts Research Center, there has been a dramatic decline in users requesting information from the facility management office. Students and faculty can be seen effortlessly navigating the space. Incoming freshmen and visitors are intuitively drawn to the bright and inviting wayfinding signage. Surprisingly, the wayfinding signage itself has become a meeting point for students and faculty within the atrium as it is the most visually stimulating and easily identifiable point within the Arts Research Center. Perhaps the greatest surprise of all, however, was how quickly users adapted to and made use of, YiEUM Partners’ non-traditional wayfinding solution. 

Jury Comments: 

"The bright, yellow directional signs bring surprising moments of warmth and humor to a space that could feel cold and industrial."

"This simple signage family flawlessly contrasts the complex architectural space. The positioning of signage on unexpected surfaces and applications is a delight. The use of color was very thoughtful."

Client: 

Seoul National University, College of Fine Arts, Soon Jong Lee (Dean), Joo Moon (Vice-Dean)

Project Area: 

76,080 sq ft

Open Date: 

March 2015

Photo Credits: 

Won Suk Lee (commissioned), Dae Ho Kim and Sherwood Choe (employees of YiEUM Partners, Inc.)

Design Team: 

Seoul National University Visual Communication Design: Kyung Sun Kymn (creative director), Do Yeon Yang (designer), So Hee Kim (designer), Min Kyoung Lee (designer), Hye Eun Leem (designer)

YiEUM Partners, Inc.: Jang Won Ahn (principal in charge), Dong Chan Seo (creative director), Dae Ho Kim (creative director), Ga Ram Kim (project manager), Jung Woo Yang (project manager), Sung Yul Park (designer), Eun Ji Kim (designer), Chang Suk Yoo (designer), Jun Young Woo (designer)

iarc (architect)

Fabricators: 

YiEUM Partners, Inc.

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