Seongsu Silo: Seoul Urban Manufacturing Hub / Society of Architectur*e

Architects:Society of Architecture

|”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””+Area: 2179 m²

Year: 2023
Photographs: Kyungsub Shin
Structural Consultants: Base Structural Consultants
Mechanical Engineering: Ju-Sung ENG
Electrical Engineering: Hangil Engineering
Construction: Save
Architects: Yerin Kang, Society of Architecture (Chihoon Lee)
Design Team: Yuri Jeong, Jeongyeon Lee, Yoonseok Lee, Jungmin Kim, Yoonji Kim
Client: Seoul Metropolitan Government
City: Seongdong-gu

Country: South Korea

Seongsu Silo urban manufacturing hub designed by Society of Architecture in Seoul has transformed the Seongsu-dong neighborhood into a center for industrial innovation and collaboration. The hub integrates production, planning, marketing, and consumption into one space, fostering a new type of urban experience that merges manufacturing with consumer activities. Expected to be a significant addition to the area, Seongsu Silo redefines the typical factory space with flexible, vertically serviced workspaces and open public areas, reflecting the evolving nature of urban industrial zones.

Seongsu silo: seoul urban manufacturing hub / society of architecture

Since its foundation in 1394, Seoul has evolved from an agrarian society to a fully industrialized megacity. The most significant urban changes occurred in the 20th century due to industrialization. During the Japanese colonial period (1910–45), Yeongdeungpo, southwest of the Han River, was developed with heavy military infrastructure, setting the stage for it to become Seoul’s largest industrial zone after liberation. Other industrial areas followed, but as of 2021, only seven major semi-industrial zones remain, covering 3.3 percent of the city’s area but playing a crucial role in its industrial economy.

Seoul’s industrial areas primarily accommodate light industries such as fashion, printing, metal fabrication, and jewelry. These zones consist mostly of small businesses operating in relatively poor conditions. To revitalize these areas and create jobs, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has been investing ₩300 billion since 2018 to build ‘smart anchor’ facilities for each manufacturing industry. A ‘smart anchor’ provides small businesses access to high-tech facilities, like 3D printers, which they can use jointly. These anchors also foster collaboration between companies. Seoul aims to build 20 smart anchors, with five confirmed in districts such as ‘Jungnang-gu Sewing,’ ‘Jung-gu Printing,’ ‘Guro-gu Machinery Metal,’ and ‘Gangbuk-gu Sewing.’ In Seongsu-dong, in Seongdong-gu district, a facility is planned to support craftsmen who make handmade shoes.

The Semi-Industrial Mix – Semi-industrial areas in Seoul currently host light industries that interact with residential, financial, and business centers. These areas are characterized by dynamic flows of production and consumption. Originally planned to form blocks with roads suitable for factory logistics, these zones now overlap with various consumption and leisure activities. Laws and building regulations have been revised to promote diverse land use, moving beyond the original factory-only design. These zones now support production, consumption, and residential functions. From Seoul’s perspective, factory zones are seen as spaces with strong identities, offering unique urban experiences that contrast with the uniformity of typical residential areas.

Seongsu silo: seoul urban manufacturing hub / society of architecture

Seongsu-dong has been transformed into a culturally significant area. The industrial cityscape offers visitors a unique experience. Empty factories are now filled with consumer products. Streets once used for raw materials and finished products, like handmade shoes, are now occupied by pedestrians. These visitors are consumers, not producers. This shift changes the urban streets from logistics routes to pedestrian-oriented spaces focused on consumption, creating a multi-layered sense of place. The new building in Seongsu-dong reflects this change, offering more openness than traditional factory constructions. This new architecture expands the dense walking network of urban streets beyond simple factory buildings.

Seongsu silo: seoul urban manufacturing hub / society of architecture

As semi-industrial areas have grown, factory construction has evolved for efficiency. Factories are now vertically stacked to cope with the high density of city centers and are known in Korea as ‘apartment-type factories.’ These buildings typically feature a central service core with open workspaces on the periphery, tailored to universal standards for efficiency rather than the specific needs of different manufacturing industries. Conversely, small manufacturing industries rely on flexible systems, field-based tacit information distribution, skilled technicians, and a collaborative environment. In large cities, manufacturing forms an integrated economy where production and consumption are closely linked. Unlike specialized industrial areas that concentrate on similar industries, urban manufacturing coexists with various urban activities, emphasizing individuality, small-scale production, and meeting specific demands. ‘Apartment-type factory’ architecture often fails to accommodate this specificity. As the city’s production shifts to the knowledge industry, the obsolescence of light and manufacturing industries is accelerating.

Vertically Serviced Workspaces – In Seongsu-dong, the handmade shoe industry relies on subcontractors for production rather than small manufacturers creating their brands. Existing urban factories focus on efficiency, but the Metropolitan Small Manufacturers’ Support Center (MSMSC) seeks to innovate by integrating production, planning, distribution, marketing, and consumption into a single space. The new tower-type factory offers a three-dimensional space for both consumption and production, streamlining the product distribution chain from planning to marketing and consumption. In 2019, SoA (Society of Architecture) proposed the Seongsu-Silo as an adaptive reuse project, which is under development at the time of writing. The Seongsu-Silo aims to foster collaboration and industrial innovation through space branding, targeting small business owners.

Seongsu silo: seoul urban manufacturing hub / society of architecture

Small craftsmen’s workspaces are arranged on each floor within an open plan. To function as a vertical factory, three vertical ancillary spaces are added at the front, highlighted as independent volumes for displays, promotional activities, storage, conferences, lectures, and other customizable purposes. These spaces include an open stairway. Public spaces between these areas allow the service spaces at the front to be opened to the outside independently. A ‘maker column’ of red brick, a material common in Seongsu-dong’s factories, extends the historical urban landscape. The ‘shoe silo’ features glass at the front and brick at the rear, creating a visually open, independent space. External evacuation stairs, typical in Seongsu-dong, serve as a ‘vertical walkway,’ enhancing the vertical continuity of the urban streets.

Seongsu silo: seoul urban manufacturing hub / society of architecture

Industrial Continuity Through Renovation and Expansion – By preserving the upper facade of the front of the pre-existing building, while not retaining the interior, the visual continuity of Seongsu-dong’s factory zone is maintained. The MSMSC construction strategy focuses on expansion. Along with easing building line regulations, the remodeling strategy preserves Seongsu-dong’s history by keeping the first-floor façade and ground-floor columns of the existing building. These elements integrate with the newly created area, including the service towers, creating a complex entry experience. This approach establishes a relationship between the old and new, with the original building’s pillars and the multistory ‘column’ elements of the new construction. Serving as a pilotis or fence, this design naturally attracts urban walkers into the building, reducing psychological barriers to entry.

Factory buildings constructed with minimal requirements have their own industrial aesthetics. In Seongsu-dong, the streets feature architectural languages grounded in practicality and economy. Most existing factories are modernist structures with concrete frames filled with bricks, a common construction type in the area. The architecture of the MSMSC proposal uses these familiar materials to preserve the streetscape while respecting and developing the area by changing its use. The core strategy involves placing human-scale spatial elements on the road-facing elevation to foster connections in the manufacturing industry’s branding process, such as planning, distribution, and marketing. Flexible workspaces are planned at the rear of the site.

Seongsu silo: seoul urban manufacturing hub / society of architecture

The ground floor extends vertically to the first floor through an upper opening. A moving wall allows compartmentalization to create a flexible, multi-purpose space. The same continuous material is used for the floor inside and out, creating an open space to the rear through a folding door. To integrate the old structure, the ground-level pillars of the existing building serve as the entrance to the main office. A second entry hall, created through the new massing, connects the public directly to the public corridor.

Seongsu silo: seoul urban manufacturing hub / society of architecture

System for Flexible Work Production – The Seongsu-Silo aims to become an industrial anchor, requiring flexibility both in context and within itself. The workspace includes an internal balcony and outer curtain walls on both sides, creating a pleasant working environment. Reinforced concrete walls facilitate the installation of workstations and shelves. Service columns enhance public spaces by incorporating decorative bricks used externally into indoor materials. The design includes spaces for manufacturing, production exchange, network distribution, planning, and marketing, offering a one-stop service. Casual meetings between small business owners and consumers occur in a front-facing space. The variable planar composition adapts organically to different events and uses. Also, the service space facing the road allows the workspace to extend freely from side to side.

Seongsu silo: seoul urban manufacturing hub / society of architecture

Through architectural articulation, spatial flexibility can be achieved, yet a smart anchor requires maintaining urban flexibility. This hybrid typology meets these needs by grafting forms and materials to create a contrast between transparent public areas and opaque private spaces, thereby modestly promoting industry and culture.

Seongsu silo: seoul urban manufacturing hub / society of architecture
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Project Location

Address: Seongdong-gu, Seoul, South Korea

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