|Professor Kang Mi-seon proudly explains the process of constructing the Ewha Campus Complex. Photo by Park Jae-won.
Ewha Campus Complex, or ECC, marks its 10th anniversary as Korea’s largest underground campus and a landmark of Ewha for the last decade.
ECC opened its doors at a dedication ceremony on April 29, 2008. The school set up a campus development plan in 2002 and planned an underground campus in consideration of conservation of nature and best use of space. Architect Dominique Perrault, known for his design of the French National Library, was selected to design the ECC in February 2004 through an international competition. After three years of construction, the 130 billion won project was completed and the ECC was opened for use on schedule and on budget.
ECC has attracted a great deal of attention for its unique appearance. The 66,000-meters squared campus is housed in six stories in the underground space.
A huge incline, known as the ECC valley, was excavated in the center of the ECC building and has been awarded for being aesthetically and architecturally excellent. It has also won numerous awards including the 2008 Seoul City Architects Award, and the 2010 Parisian Architects Grand Prix Award, confirming its global reputation for excellence.
To celebrate its 10th anniversary, on May 17, the architect Dominique Perrault visited Ewha to share his experience and opinions on ECC. His lecture focused on how he came to use underground space, in spite of the fact that many people consider such spaces as ‘dark’ and ‘gloomy’.
“We have usually perceived that the underground as dark and uncomfortable; it is my job to change that perspective,” Perrault said. “The underground not only isolates and protects us from the outside, but also has correlations with it.”
He told that his architecture and design of the ECC was intended to form a basis for communal life.
ECC has been praised as a cutting-edge multi-campus and future-oriented educational space that will enhance Ewha's global competitiveness and has been more than a structure for the school’s students.
“I feel so proud when my friends tell me that our campus is unique because of ECC,” said Lee Hae-in, an Ewha student in the department of English. “I think that it has become a trademark of Ewha.”
“When I first saw ECC, I was so impressed by the design of this architecture,” said an exchange student who is studying accounting at Ewha. “It looks like underground, but it is actually over ground because plants are grown on the rooftop.”
Interview with the chief director of the Ewha campus construction team, Professor Kang Mi-seon
Kang Mi-seon, professor of architecture in Ewha, was the chief director of the ECC project. She planned and managed the ECC project from start to finish, collaborating with Dominique Perrault. Ewha Voice visited Kang’s office to exclusively hear her thoughts on ECC.
ECC has many eco-friendly components. Ten years since it was first opened, do you think that it has been well-managed until now?
Yes, definitely. Because ECC’s eco designs, such as thermal maze which enables underground facilities to minimize energy consumption for heating and cooling, are not determined by the machinery, it does not malfunction. So, we could see that it is still maintaining its function just the same as when we first built ECC.
What is the best part of ECC that you think of?
Before the construction of ECC, there were no space for students to rest between classes, according to our survey on students’ timetables. We wanted to build a place where students could eat, study, and rest 24/7 in one place.
Also, from a designer's perspective, ECC is very outstanding. Architects from all around the world know of Ewha because of ECC. I personally like that, even though you are in the deepest corner of ECC, there is always sunlight shedding in. These things are the parts that touch us. To sum up, ECC is an architecture ahead of its time.
Can we say that ECC has changed the landscape of Korea’s university campuses?
Yes. Let me put it this way; the president of every Korean university has visited ECC. Almost every Korean university shares the same concerns about available land on campus. I think we kind of gave them the pressure to build something like ECC. Seeing the quality of ECC has made people think that they should also construct high-quality campus buildings like ECC.
What were the challenges when you built ECC?
Ewha is an old campus and has many stone buildings. Finding a point of balance between those old buildings and the modern ECC was one challenge. Moreover, given that ECC is actually an underground structure, ventilation and lighting were problems that we had to solve. While constructing ECC, our school’s president changed, and there were some additional difficulties in these circumstances.
There is also one more regret. Our team wanted to make our campus car-free by not making the road into the main gate. As you know, the campus is still crowded. But, because we had some conflicts with other parties, we weren’t able to do that. However, we were able to overcome these challenges to make ECC stand in a class of its own. Can you recall your feeling when you saw the final product of the building?
To tell you the truth, we architects always see the construction site, so there were no surprises for me. But when I see students walk alongside ECC and spend their time there, I always feel a strong sense of pride.
As ECC is commemorating its 10th anniversary, we would like to know what ECC means to you.
ECC is a milestone of the new era. Ewha’s landscape has been changed by ECC. In other words, Ewha’s history could be divided into the time before ECC and the time after. Life has changed; how we see the world and how the world sees Ewha changed.
I also give my personal thanks to the determination of Shin In-ryung, former president of Ewha, and Yoon Hu-jung, former chairman of the board at Ewha, who supported the ECC project along with the space committee.