Museum Of Photographic Arts Seoul

Project information

  1. Location Seoul, South Korea

Project details

  1. Year2019
  2. StatusCompleted
  3. Partners Sangji Group
    Lichtvision Design
    Abstract Drawing Center (a.d.c)
  4. Client Seoul Metropolitan Government
  5. Enquiries Thomas Lindgård Fagernes

Design proposal

Design proposal for the open competition for MOPAS (Museum Of Photographic Arts Seoul) - a collaboration between Nordic — Office of Architecture, Sang-Ji Architects, Abstract Drawing Centre and Lichtvision.

The concept is a blurred building conceived as a medium for light, ever changing in appearance as light conditions changes through the day, an institution which is not defined by shape but rather by how it interacts with light, both natural and artificial.

The Filter

Being the last building in a row of formally expressive architecture, there is an opportunity to avoid distinct form, and rather create a “filter” between the existing buildings which responds to and compliments these through the shifting light conditions. The filter is made up of a forest of gently reflective columns, reflecting the surroundings and adopting the colours of light and as these change through the seasons and time of day and night.

The Building

The building is a rational stack of volumes, containing spaces for various exhibition halls and the operational program. The stack is slightly shifted according to the program, creating exterior space with the opportunity of introducing controlled daylight into the exhibition areas at selected points. The building is wrapped in prismatic glass to enhance the blurring of the volume in interaction with the exterior forest of columns.

Dark to Light

The main circulation element is at the centre of the building, a spiral staircase with a light funnel in the middle. This creates a journey through the museum going from dark to light as one proceeds through the levels. At the lowest level, where the intensity of natural light is most modest, still images are on display. As the intensity of light increases going up the building, the media evolves through motion pictures to digital and experimental content towards the top.

The Exhibitions

The exhibition halls are flexible column free “blank boxes” that can be adopted to a wide array of curatorial concepts. With the main vertical circulation in the middle, it is possible to operate the halls as one large continuous exhibition or as independent events. Each hall can easily be subdivided into smaller spaces or be combined.

The Machine

The operational part of the museum is a rational stack towards the north. This contains deliveries, storage, set up areas, back of house program and circulation. At the top level, the exhibition area merges with the educational area, creating a stage for experimentation and interaction.

Lighting Design Concept

The lighting is an integral part of the architectural concept. Exterior light is used to activate the building at night, changing the appearance of the building in rhythm with the museum program. We have three main elements which singularly or in combination with each other alters the appearance and perception of the building from the subtle to the dramatic:

  • Vertical lighting integrated into a dense yet permeable forest of columns enhances the illusion of a screen. The light reflects off the shiny non-lit columns and mirror-like ceiling, blurring the boundaries between inside and outside and hiding the building behind it. The column light is programmable and can alter in intensity and complexity.
  • Once you enter the forest of columns, a 3D-LED-cube appears and invites to an immersive experience of light and perception, a play of focal point, depth of field, out of -focus & in-focus. The 3D-cube can be programmed with cinematic content, creating a focal point and attraction on its own.
  • A LED media façade is integrated behind the u-glass facade. It is embedded into the fabric, context and content of the museum. Denser and with more pixels to show imagery at the south-east side of level 3 above the entrance, then dispersing slowly to either side for pixelated content, a glow of colour and slow movement. We envisage this element to reflect the content and exhibits of the museum. It is also a platform for artists to show their latest work. The façade can display elements of the local weather; clouds on a rainy night or storm when the wind is blowing.

The exterior lighting has the highest intensity on the southern façade, fading off towards the residential area to the north. The central feature is the exterior light funnel in the middle of the main circular staircase. At daytime this creates a gradual transition of light intensity as one moves up the building. At night, it is lit from the outside by a grid of LED lights, providing the possibility of both subtle lighting effects and artistic content as part of exhibitions. The interior lighting for the public spaces and exhibitions is simple, practical and visually reduced with a focus on flexibility for curatorial interventions.


Branding guidelines were developed by Abstract Drawing Center (a.d.c) based on the architectural concept.