Discovering Seoul City Hall – Light, Glass and Nature

Written by on August 12, 2013 in Special Report, Travel

Seoul is a wonderful combination of old traditions with its temples and palaces and modern architecture.
One of the modern landmarks in modern architecture can be explored within the impressive buildings of the former and Seoul City Halls.
The old Seoul City Hall now features multipurpose halls and cultural facilities for citizens and it had served as city hall between 1945 -after the liberation- up to the 2008. It is registered as a cultural asset and is now the residence of the Seoul Metropolitan Library with more than 200,000 books.
Digitalized collections can also been viewed through large monitors inside the building.
Visitors taking the elevators to the top of the building will get to see a great view of the city at the Seoul Plaza and have a cup of coffee.


The new Seoul City Hall was designed by Yoo Kerl of iArc and combines traditional elements, such as the curvaceousness and traditional architecture with modern material to create the “comfortable feeling of old things”.
Also, the incorporation of natural elements, in and outside of the new building, was very important.
As you can see, the glass does resemble are gigantic wave, right?


Inside, lush, green plants are on display and they are being watered with an elaborate system, to keep them thriving during the humid summer.
The lightfall and the plants create a light and peaceful atmosphere.

The interesting sculpture you see on the right is called “Metaseosa Seobol”, the Fountain of Life, Blossom of Communication and the information says that it’s a “giant pillar of silver sticks, whirling up toward the sky. A piece selected from an open contest among Korea’s finest artists, it visualizes Seoul’s 2000-year history and future with 250,000 silver sticks”.


Sometimes it really seemed to be a perfect location for a science fiction movie, for example this elevator which comes right out of an orb which resembles an alien egg 😉 The building is carefully designed with pumps to water the plants and smaller pumps for cooling air, so it’s also a nice stop to take a rest from the hot summer.


There are also lots of smaller libraries scattered through the building, where visitors can read for free, chat and relax. Or visitors can explore the archaeological site in the basement.


A glass floor was built to show visitors the findings, such as parts of old walls and even tableware.  Also, this was the place of the watercourses of Cheongyecheon and Hoanseokchuk. The Hoanseokchuk was a stone embankment to protect the stream banks and apparently from the early Joseon Period.
More findings include the Bullanggijapo (Breech-loading Gun), it was excavated from the site of the Government Arsenal and also from the Joseon Dynasty. Inscriptions tell 1563 as the date of manufacturing.


Another historical place is the old city council room, the room was preserved and shows the portraits of former members as well as an educational video.  It can only be visited as part of guided tours.


The Seoul Metropolitan Library inside the former Seoul City Hall is now a place for book lovers – families, students and tourists are invited to explore various rooms with unique designs, such as this book staircase.
You can find almost everything here: books about cooking, travel, studying and comics!

How to get here: Take Line 1 or Line 2 to the City Hall Station.

Tip: Start with the archaeological findings in the basement and “work” your way up towards the Seoul Plaza.

About the Author

Dorothea Suh

Dorothea Suh is a PhD student in ethnomusicology and wayfarer. She researches oral traditions of East Asia, loves her violin, Korea and good coffee. You can find her on Twitter as @Novemberbeetle