When New York architect David Yum first set foot in the high-rise Leema Building lobby in Seoul, South Korea, he felt out of place.
"There was no center to the place. There wasn't a sense of where you would arrive at the elevator," said Yum. "It was almost like walking into an airport terminal—this huge, rectangular box."
The architect, hired to renovate the 5,000-sf lobby by Leema Industrial Co., came up with an elliptical glass wall system that would not only cut the lobby in half, but allow reflection and lighting to guide visitors to the central elevator core.
"It's such a deep, long lobby that you feel lost at either end," said Yum. "So, the arc cuts it up a bit and brings the reflections of the street from the long ends of the lobby. Then the ellipse of the wall gives a path from either entrance to the center of the room."
Yum's wall system was custom made of tempered, sandblasted glass panels with structural steel support trusses hidden behind them. The exoskeleton of columns and trusses are linked together to form the main support for the lobby's new tray ceiling. The elliptical shape also helps to brace against any wind load, Yum said.
Yum credited the team from English structural engineer Buro Happold with helping to design and fabricate the custom steel-and-glass struts and connectors that hold up the elliptical wall.
"Our intent was to make the wall system simpler," Yum said. "Buro Happold showed us what could and could not be pared down. They were great at understanding the whole architectural concept."
Follow the light
Along with the wall system, Yum added a new ceiling to the lobby, with recessed, lighted coffers in a staggered, rectilinear pattern; this creates an arc of light that reflects off the elliptical wall. Yum likens the interaction of light, window reflection of passersby on the street, and the reflection of people inside the building to the complexity, connection, and global nature of the modern business world.
"We wanted to conceal the light source, yet at the same time use the light to bounce off the elliptical wall and show people the way to the center of the room," said Yum.