OMA’s Winning Design for Hongik University’s New Campus in Seoul

Chris van Duijn, from OMA, emerged victorious in the competition aimed at devising a fresh outlook for the Hongik University campus in Seoul. The proposed design involves a captivating cluster of interconnected structures and communal areas that seamlessly blend with the existing landscape, aiming to forge a stronger bond between the university and the bustling city.

Established in the 1950s on the slopes of Wau mountain, Hongik University has gained recognition for its exceptional art and design programs. However, as time passed, the campus faced limitations in terms of expansion, resulting in a disconnect from the vibrant Hongdae neighborhood. Known for its vibrant street art, local shops, and lively nightlife, Hongdae is an integral part of the city’s cultural fabric. Fortunately, in 2023, the Seoul Metropolitan Government introduced an urban planning ordinance that eased building restrictions on university grounds. This development opened up an expansive field at the base of the mountain, providing an ideal location for the ambitious project to take shape.

OMA’s design prioritizes the utilization of the campus’ available space while incorporating a substantial amount of greenery. The concept revolves around seamlessly extending the Wau mountain, with the new addition situated below ground level. The strategic placement of the buildings across the site allows their roofs to serve as sheltered pathways adorned with trees, connecting the main access points of the university with the Hongdae district. The design also features sloping outdoor courtyards between the buildings, creating a cascading effect that encourages informal gatherings and interactions among students and staff. These courtyards not only bring natural light deep into the campus but also establish unexpected connections between the buildings, forming a continuous sequence of outdoor spaces.

“The new Hongik campus adds another chapter to OMA’s involvement in cultural projects in Seoul,” says Chris van Duijn, Partner at OMA. “This is a project that shies away from conventional labels: it is a building, a masterplan and landscape design all at once. It purposely avoids to stand out and invites to be discovered gradually. In doing so, it aims to reestablish the connection the university once had with the neighborhood.”

Hongik University Seoul Campus, KR / OMA

From a programmatic standpoint, the new buildings are organized into interconnected clusters based on three sectors: high-tech laboratories in close proximity to the Engineering Faculty, amenities positioned at the center, and maker spaces oriented towards Hongdae. Additionally, the central buildings will house a new art center, while the perimeter will accommodate a multipurpose learning hub. The floor at the Hongdae level runs through all the buildings, allowing for convenient vertical movement of no more than three floors. The public amenities on this level serve as an inviting space for visitors, effectively becoming the vibrant heart of the campus.

Ravi Kamisetti, an Associate at OMA, explains, “We have designed a campus that embraces the energy, spontaneity, and creativity of the Hongdae neighborhood, allowing it to influence and enrich the overall atmosphere.”