Unique Korean buildings


South Korea’s skyline is ever-changing as they move towards contemporary and sustainable architecture while holding strong to their cultural roots. Some unique Korean buildings, such as Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP), have developed into a must-visit tourist spot, but there are more yet to be discovered.


1. Arium Office Building – a NSFW cross-section


Unique Korean Buildings - Arium Office Building
Image credit: @sunw2003_agoodplace

Formerly known as Dr Seo’s Gynaecology Hospital, the Arium Office Building was designed by architect Kim Chung-up, who studied under Le Corbusier, the father of modern architecture.

Gynaecologist Dr Seo had requested Kim to design the building with the imagery of male and female reproductive organs in mind. But while the cross-section of the building does look like a slightly NSFW image of the male reproductive organ, all you can see from the exterior is its quirky white-and-pink facade with rounded walls.

Unique Korean Buildings - Cross-section of Arium Office Building.
Cross-section of Arium Office Building.
Image credit: 독서동아리지원센터

Back then, the first floor housed consultation rooms. The second and third floors had treatment rooms, and the fourth contained residential space for the doctors.

The building was set to be taken down as part of the area’s industrial development plans. But then, Chung In-hoon, CEO of design company Arium, bought over the building to preserve its heritage and converted the upper floors into office space for Arium’s staff. 

Arium Office Building is just a short walk from Exit 3 of Line 2 of the DDP Station. 

Unique Korean Buildings - Arium Office Building
Image credit: @sunw2003_agoodplace

Address: Arium Office Building, 349 Toegye-ro, Euljiro 7(chil)-ga, Jung-gu, Seoul
Nearest station: Dongdaemun Design Plaza Station, Line 2, Exit 3


2. Aiden by Best Western @ Cheongdam – curved lines inspired by stacked towels


Unique Korean Buildings - Aiden by Best Western @ Cheongdam
Image credit: @sunw2003_agoodplace

The curved lines you see on the exterior of Aiden by Best Western @ Cheongdam look like waves, but they were actually inspired by stacked and folded towels. 

Unique Korean Buildings - Aiden by Best Western @ Cheongdam
Images adapted from: @sunw2003_agoodplace and Aiden by Best Western Cheongdam’s official Facebook page

Aiden by Best Western @ Cheongdam is a 3-star hotel with a no-smoking rule on its grounds and all its rooms.

The 18-storey hotel has two bars – one on its rooftop and another on its ground floor. They have meeting, conference, and banquet facilities available for booking.

Shopping streets like Garosu-gil and Apgujeong are within a 2km radius, and the COEX Mall is a 20-minute bus ride away, so you will have plenty of things to do if you choose to stay in this hotel.

Address: 216 Dosan-daero, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
Nearest station: Hakdong Station, Line 7, Exit 10


3. 63 Building – a building that looks like 人 from the side


Unique Korean Buildings - 63 Building
Image credit: @_hanimoon_

63 Building was designed by Som & Associates, an American architectural firm.

When viewed from the side, the building resembles the Korean hanja for “person” – 人 (in). It was intentionally designed that way as a reference to the then-building owner, Daehan Life, a Korean insurance company.

This building is one of Seoul’s tallest buildings, standing at 249m-tall with over 13,000 insulated glass units, and coated with 24-carat gold.

Facilities include a cinema, an aquarium, retail shops, restaurants, and even an art gallery on the 60th floor, where you can enjoy a bird’s eye view of Seoul.

Unique Korean Buildings - Aqua Planet 63
Aqua Planet 63
Image credit: @2_hyein

63 Building was featured on episode 190 of the Korean variety show Running Man. The cast competed against each other in a baton relay, completing their first mission by climbing up the stairs and being the first team to reach the top of 63 Building.

강하늘, 송지효 체력에 역전패 @런닝맨 140323
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강하늘, 송지효 체력에 역전패 @런닝맨 140323

Video credit: SBS Running Man 

Unique Korean Buildings - 63 Building
Image credit: Brian Negin

Address: 60 Yeoeuido-dong, Yeongdeungpo-gu, Seoul
Nearest station: Yeouinaru Station, Line 5, Exit 3
Opening hours: 10AM-10PM, Daily


4. Sebitseom – a cluster of islands that paint the Han River in colour at night


Unique Korean Buildings - Sebitseom
Image credit: @bigg_jun

Sebitseom is made up of four artificial islands – Gavit, Chaevit, Solvit and Yevit.

Sebitseom started as a suggestion by a Seoul citizen named Kim Eun-sung, and it was designed and built by Haeahn Architecture. The structure became the first of its kind to have entertainment facilities floating on water.

At night, Sebitseom lights up the sky along the Han River with colourful and beautiful LED lights. 

Since 2011, Sebitseom has served as an entertainment district with restaurants, performance halls, culture experience and water leisure facilities, and a Media Art Gallery. 

As opening hours differ for the facilities in Sebitseom, do check out their website for more updates on the latest timings.

Fun fact: Parts of Avengers 2 and She Was Pretty were filmed here.

Unique Korean Buildings - Sebitseom
Image credit: Haeahn Architecture

Address: Sebitseom, 2085-14 Olympic-daero, Seocho-gu, Seoul
Nearest station: Express Bus Terminal Station, Line 3, 7 or 9, Exit 8-1


5. ÅLAND Hongdae – a building that looks like a yellow diamond


Unique Korean Buildings - ÅLAND Hongdae
Image credit: ArchDaily

Surrounded by universities nearby, the dynamic, multi-faceted exterior of the ÅLAND Hongdae building is meant to celebrate the youthful energy of the students, and the out-of-the-box design fits the area’s creative vibe like a glove.

The building was designed by Jun Mitsui & Associates Inc. Architects and UnSangDong Architects. The gold-yellow glass used on the exterior was installed to help the building stand out from its surroundings and catch the eyes of passers-by.

Unique Korean Buildings - ÅLAND Hongdae
Image credit: ArchDaily

Address: ÅLAND, 29 Hongik Mall, Yanghwa-ro 16-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Nearest station: Hongdae Station, Line 2, AREX or Gyeongui-Jungang Line, Exit 9


6. Harim Tower – an eco-friendly building with unique curves


Unique Korean Buildings - Harim Tower
Image credit: Mijie

Designed and commissioned by The Beck Group, Harim Tower opened in 2016 and consists of three floors of restaurants and 14 floors of office space.

The windows were coated with UV lining that reduces heat from entering in summer and heat from escaping in winter. LED light bulbs are used instead of fluorescent ones as they help save energy and are more cost-efficient in the long run.

The Beck Group even built a roof garden with a rainwater-harvesting system that recycles rainwater. 

Unique Korean Buildings - Harim Tower
Image credit:@sunw2003_agoodplace

Unique Korean Buildings - Harim Tower’s Concept Sketch
Harim Tower’s Concept Sketch
Image credit: Kei Lee

Address: 130, Dosan-daero, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
Nearest station: Sinsa Station, Line 3, Exit 1


7. Simone Handbag Museum – a handbag-shaped building


Unique Korean Buildings - Simone Handbag Museum
Image credit: u/jaykirsch

Simone Handbag Museum was designed by Charlie Smith Design and Korean architects U.A.D. Architects Group.

The building opened in 2012 and is situated in Gangnam, an upscale and fashionable district in Seoul.

It is the epitome of the concept “form follows function” as it is built like a handbag, and is home to a handbag museum housing vintage designer bags made from as early as the 15th century.

The museum was the initiative of Kenny Park, CEO of Simone Acc. Collection Ltd. The company produces handbags for some of the largest fashion houses in the world.

Unique Korean Buildings - Simone Handbag Museum
Image credit: @simonehandbagmuseum

Visitors can register for a month-long DIY handbag workshop held at Basement 4 of the museum. At the end of the workshop, participants will bring home a handbag and accessory made from scratch. 

Registration for the workshop can be done over the phone or the counter. It is priced at KRW200,000 (~USD173.03) per person. 

Due to the pandemic, workshops are not in session at the moment, but do keep an eye out on their Facebook, Instagram, or website for future updates.

Address: 17 Dosan-daero 13-gil, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
Nearest station: Sinsa Station, Line 3, Exit 9
Opening hours: Tue Sat 10AM-7PM | Sunday 11AM-7PM (Closed on Mondays)
Telephone: 02-3444-0912
Admission: KRW5,000 (~USD4.33)


8. Shrimp Tower – a landmark that looks like a shrimp


Unique Korean Buildings - Shrimp Tower
Image credit: 준또의 오늘하루

Soraepo-gu held a design contest for a new landmark as part of the redevelopment plans in 2019, and this shrimp design was picked out of 100 entries. 

Seorae Port, where the Shrimp Tower is located, plays host to the largest seafood market in Incheon. It is also famous for its shrimps. In addition, shrimps symbolise wealth and success. Hence, this design emerged as the winner.

1 billion won (~USD907,140.60) worth of tax contributions was put into the construction of the Shrimp Tower, which was completed within seven months.

Opened last year, the three-storey tower features an observatory on the top floor, accessible by a staircase or lift. 

A LED light show takes place every evening from about 7PM till 9PM, lighting up the Shrimp Tower in various colours.

Check out this article to learn more about the Shrimp Tower.

Unique Korean Buildings - Shrimp Tower
Image credit: @rose_wi_

Address: Haeoreum Park, 1454 Aam-daero, Nonhyeon 1(il)-dong, Namdong-gu, Incheon
Nearest station: Soraepo-gu Station, Suin-Bundang Line, Exit 1
Opening hours: Weekdays, 9AM-5:30PM | Weekends & Public Holidays, 9AM-6PM


9. Hyundai Pavilion Yeosu Expo – a sound box-inspired pavilion


Unique Korean Buildings - Hyundai Pavilion Yeosu Expo
Image credit: Sergio Pirrone

The Hyundai Pavilion was designed by Unsangdong Architects, who are known for their unusual and cutting-edge designs.

The building was inspired by a large soundbox, with the intention of symbolically projecting the surrounding nature’s energy towards the Port of Yeosu. 

Unique Korean Buildings - Hyundai Pavilion
Image credit: Sergio Pirrone

At night, the media wall of the exhibitions in the pavilion lights up and shines on the Expo event space. 

Unique Korean Buildings - Hyundai Pavilion
Image credit: Sergio Pirrone

The back of the pavilion displays an artistic take on the letter “H”, which represents Hyundai Motor Group. 

Address: Yeosu-si, Jeollanam-do
Nearest station: Yeosu EXPO Station, Jeolla Line


10. GT Tower East – wave-like facade inspired by Korean pottery


Unique Korean Buildings - GT Tower East
Image credit: @theondo_pic

Located along the busy streets of Gangnam, GT Tower East is designed by an architectural firm from the Netherlands, Het Architecten Consort.

Inspired by the shapes in traditional Korean pottery, the building’s contours create a wave-like facade. It was designed to create a stark contrast from its neighbours’ business-like exteriors, and stand out from typical office buildings. 

The wavy glass facades add a special quality to the tower, allowing light to reflect a viewer’s movement. The building also features metal integrations in the curtain wall to enhance the tower’s waves further. 

LED lights light up the tower in the evening, changing colour and creating various patterns across the façade to animate the building and add an extra layer to its unique form.

Unique Korean Buildings - GT Tower East
Image credit: @sunw2003_agoodplace

A “green plan” was created to support the building’s eco-friendly efforts. It includes landscaping on the ground level and a rooftop garden. The tower also makes use of solar cells, and the offices can be naturally ventilated to reduce the need for air-conditioning.

Address: GT Tower, 411 Seochodae-ro, Seocho-gu, Seoul
Nearest station: Gangnam Station, Line 2 or Shinbundang Line, Exit 9


11. Summit Gallery – a gallery inspired by compressed springs


Unique Korean Buildings - Summit Gallery
Image credit: Unsangdong Architects

Summit Gallery was designed by a well-known Korean architecture firm called Unsangdong Architects. 

Its exterior resembles a series of compressed springs. The concentric circles form cylindrical tunnels leading into windows, a walkway, and a communal space for meetings.

Unique Korean Buildings - Summit Gallery
Images adapted from: USD Space, Unsangdong Architects

Unique Korean Buildings - Summit Gallery
Image adapted from: World Architecture, Unsangdong Architects

The gallery opened in 2008 and was previously known as the Kring Culture Complex. In 2009, Summit Prugio, a real estate company, bought the building. It was renamed “Prugio Valley”, and then “Summit Gallery”.

Currently, the gallery is home to three creative studios, a cooking classroom, a theatre, and several lounges available for rental.  

Fun fact: This building appeared in two popular K-dramas – episode three of A Korean Odyssey (2017-2018) and episode four of Her Private Life (2019).

[#화유기] EP3-04 강남대로 달리는 멧돼지 출몰? 이승기에게 호되게 처맞은 저팔계 이홍기
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[#화유기] EP3-04 강남대로 달리는 멧돼지 출몰? 이승기에게 호되게 처맞은 저팔계 이홍기

Video credit: tvN Drama 

Address: 337 Youngdongdae-ro, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
Nearest station: Samseong Station, Line 2, Exit 3


12. Two Moon – inspired by the movie Two Moon Junction


Unique Korean Buildings - Two Moon
Image credit: Namgoong Sun

Two Moon was designed by Korean architect Moon Hoon.

He worked with two clients who are siblings. What inspired the design idea was their tight budget, which was about KRW500,000,000 (~USD432,546.50), and the movie, Two Moon Junction

They started with a focus on the use of simple boxes with some impact points. The two boxes meet a large sphere, forming a distinct concave space that symbolises a moon.

Unique Korean Buildings - Two Moon
Image credit: Namgoong Sun

The constellations on the exterior of the building represent Gemini and Scorpio, which are the horoscopes of the clients.

Address: 47 Jungsan-dong, Ilsandong-gu, Goyang-si, Gyeonggi-do
Nearest station: Pungsan station, Gyeongui-Jungang Line, Exit 2


Unique Korean buildings that will make you do a double-take


These unique Korean buildings are worth checking out if you happen to be in the same district. And if you’re a fan of interesting architecture, you must pay them a visit. Kudos to the architects’ for bringing these structures to life, and becoming an inspiration for budding architects.

Learn more about Korean culture with these articles:


Cover image adapted from: Jun Mitsui & Associates Architects + Unsangdong Architects, Unsangdong Architects and @theondo_pic

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