Opening up officially on May 17, the Swiss Embassy located in Donuimun New Town, Seoul is famous as the first foreign embassy to Korea to reinterpret a hanok or traditional Korean house. It is characterized by a gray roof, eaves, wooden girders, lattice bars, a Digeut(ㄷ)-shaped building and a wide-open garden. What brought the Swiss government to come up with an embassy building that resembles a hanok? Architect Nicolas Vaucher of Burckhardt+Partner, in charge of designing the embassy, and Swiss Ambassador Dr. Linus von Castelmur explained about the design of the architecture on April 16.
Vaucher said to a reporter that he found it interesting to see hanoks empty the center part, which allows for communication between residents and consistent design for several building units around the garden. He put a garden in the center of the embassy. He emphasized that hanoks gave him a great source of inspiration as he considered organically connecting three main spaces – office, guest welcoming, and residence.
The architect said that he put special effort in studying traditional Korean architecture when he joined a design competition on a project for the Swiss Embassy building to Korea in 2012. He named his project “Swiss Hanok.” Such a high level of his passion led him to become the successful owner among more than 70 competitors.
The Donuimun New Town used to be an underdeveloped urban area with low-story Western-style houses dotted around, which later have been home to high-rise apartment buildings. Asked if the Korean-style Swiss Embassy may not fit the surrounding modernized buildings, the architect answered that he aspired to leave the trace of small-sized houses that had existed in the neighborhood. Voucher could have built a typical type building five to six stories high but did want to differentiate his project. As users feel at home in a low-story building, he intended to make embassy staffers feel right at home, he added.
Serving as the Swiss Ambassador to Korea since 2016, Dr. Linus von Castelmur has showed a great interest in traditional Korean architecture. His favorite Korean architecture is Bulguk Temple in Gyeongju, North Gyeongsang Province. He commended that he found Byeongsanseowon Confucian Academy architecturally beautiful on his recent visit.