Beautiful Cafe Hilltop Cafe in South Korea Takes In the Views

For the lucky residents of Gijang, South Korea, there is now the opportunity to have a coffee whilst taking in breathtaking views of the East Sea. Atop a hill near the port city of Busan (South Korea’s second largest city), overlooking the majestic pine trees lining a jagged seashore, we find the aptly named Waveon coffeeshop designed by Seoul- based Heesoo Kwak and IDMM Architects.

Stacked concrete blocks and roof deck give diverse sea views

Waveon café is located on a hill overlooking the beach of Gijang

Rooftop observatory overlooking the sea

This airy, modern building comprises a series of stacked and rotated concrete units, with the result that the 500m squared building has different views of the surrounding landscape depending on where in the building you sit. Long, wide corridors and levels of varying height were combined to create a light and airy space that defies is concrete substance. Heesoo explains that the client wanted customers to “look down to the sandy and rocky shore wherever they are” in the building, drawing out the relationship “between natural scenes and architecture.”

The building is remarkably at one with its environs, in part due to the material focus on glass alongside concrete, maximising visibility of the landscape outside. The lighting recesses on the ceiling riff off the patterns of seawater to set the mood: “the recesses make spatiality in daytime via sculptural shading, and at night via lighting.”

Interiors have various heights and are connected to each other via a bridge

We speak to Heesoo about the unique challenges of building such an unusually placed cafe.

The Plus: What challenges did you face working in concrete for the Waveon cafe?
Heesoo Kwak: Concrete is full of possibilities for architects. It’s prized for its malleability, which allows it to form just about any shape freely. However, it causes problems with insulation and dirties fast – many have fought to devise ways to combat this, so now concrete is growing in popularity, and is now used for interiors and ceilings as well as exteriors.

Depending on where and how one is located, the sea view varies

TP: You’ve used a lot of glass and empty space in the structure- could you take us through this design choice?
HK: Transparent glass allows for a variety of views of the sea and beach, and the holes within the concrete wall were used to frame the natural environment. The holes within the concrete wall reflect the eroded seashore rocks.

Void space in the centre is a sensible solution to the problem of creating more space in which to view the scenery

TP: How far were you influenced by traditional Korean architectural styles?
HK: Korean traditional spatiality (Madang) affects my design. Unlike a courtyard in western culture, Madang is a communicative space connecting private and public areas – Waveon adopts this spatiality of Madang in its linking of interior space to the sea outside.

Wide and spiral corridor containing seating spaces embraces many diverse scenes from outdoors

TP: So what’s one of the ways you’ve gone about creating a communicative space in this project?
HK: The outer space of this building consists of ‘Pyeongsang’ – the outdoor furniture traditionally used for small group activities like talking and sipping a cup of tea in community. They become semi-individualized spaces where we have the opportunity to enjoy meditative time with a cup of coffee, surrounded by natural scenes.

Empty spaces in the centre are created by stacking long spaces in the structure

TP: Busan is famous for having the world’s largest department store. Would you like to tackle much larger-scale projects like this?
HK: Architecture cannot be evaluated by its scale. Physically smaller architecture can affect more people, and can affect nature more broadly; I try to approach architecture that has this focus.

Through the openings towards the slopes, one can enjoy the sea over the tall pine trees

TP: What do you think is most appealing about your environmentally-oriented focus?
HK: The pleasure stimulated by architecture can be utilized commercially, so we tend to avoid the kind of “stimulant architecture” that generates more stress in contemporary life. We need some space in which we can retreat from visual pollutants. Our design pursues precisely this ethos of “retreat architecture”, an architecture that considers the lifestyle and natural atmosphere of Korea.

Pyeongsang in front of the building

The pyeongsang outdoor furniture, under pine trees, play a meaningful role as semi-individualized spaces

Waveon Project Credits:
Architect: Heesoo Kwak
Location: Gijang-gun, Busan, Korea
Programme: Coastal Cafe
Site area: 1,381.53m²
Building area: 253.19m²
Gross floor area: 497.33m²
Height: 11.22m
Finish: exposed concrete
Completion: December 2016
Project Credit: Heesoo Kwak and IDMM Architects
Photo credit: Kim Jaeyoon

The sleek shape of the concrete mass is harmonized with the surrounding pine trees

Detail of the stairway access to rooftop observatory

The holes within the concrete wall reflect the eroded seashore rocks

Detail of the hole of concrete wall

The pond at the entrance of Waveon presents visitors the first view of the sea

Floor plan:
plan6 southelevation
plan7 westelevation
plan8 eastelevation
plan9 northelevation
plan10 section1
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