A curvaceous composition of white sinuous curves set against a backdrop of distant low-lying hills. The Ecorium of the national ecological institution is a dynamic structure that paradoxically stands out while blending with the surroundings. The product of a collaboration between Samoo Architects & Engineers and Grimshaw Architects. The site initially fell into the industrial zone; however, on realizing the project’s potential, the government sanctioned a design competition to build an ecoplex that would serve as a research hub and exhibit the various ecologies. Samoo Architects & Engineers won this competition among a plethora of different architects.

Ecorium of the National Ecological Institute by Samoo Architects & Engineers - Sheet1
Aerial View_©Young Chae Park

Design and planning

The Ecorium efficiently accomplishes two objectives in terms of design, primarily to serve as a terrarium for the users to experience five distinct environments. Tropical, Mediterranean, temperate, desert, and polar. Each of these unique environments is placed in one of the wedge-shaped domes. Secondly, the Ecorium also functions as a research hub. Samoo Architects and Engineers designed the Ecorium guided by three phrases, “From the Nature,” representing the dynamic and vigorous form of the Ecorium through organic curves. “Be the Nature” denotes the ecology of Earth and how it is replicated via cutting-edge technology. “With the Nature,” which allows the users to immerse themselves into each of the ecologies. This resulted in the organic composition of five interconnected greenhouses, each housing a distinct ecology. Every unique ecology has been carefully crafted to guide the visitor through a multisensory experience; flora and fauna are also accompanied by the wildlife in the respective ecological zone. To provide the visitor with a holistic experience of The Ecorium, it is supported by a host of auxiliary facilities such as a theatre, cafeterias, and souvenir shops. 

Ecorium of the National Ecological Institute by Samoo Architects & Engineers - Sheet2
Entrance_©Young Chae Park

Upon entering the Ecorium, the visitors are greeted by a grand hall flanked by cafeterias, souvenir shops, and the theatre. Samoo Architects & Engineers designed the Ecorium so that the users follow a specific route and experience the Ecorium in a particular order. This defined circulation allowed the architects to design elements along the route, further enhancing their experience. The first ecology presented to the user is the Tropical zone greenhouse, which is the biggest of all the greenhouses. It is designed to give visitors a multisensory experience of a tropical rainforest. The path is designed to take the visitors through the trees, waterfalls, and aquariums, giving the visitor perhaps what can be the closest we can get to an actual rainforest. An observatory deck is also found in this greenhouse to provide visitors with breathtaking panoramic views of the tropical rainforest.

Ecorium of the National Ecological Institute by Samoo Architects & Engineers - Sheet3
Tropical Greenhouse_©Young Chae Park

This is followed by the sub-tropical or desert ecology zone greenhouse. This greenhouse takes the visitors through an arid and harsh climatic zone, accompanied by flora and fauna of this zone. Certain animals in this climatic zone are also showcased along the visitor’s path in their natural habitat. This zone is followed by the Mediterranean zone greenhouse, which contrasts the visitors’ experience with the previous greenhouse with its lush greenery. The fourth zone is the temperate zone greenhouse; this zone is different from the other zones since it shares a climatic zone with South Korea, allowing it to take advantage of the exterior environment and showcase miniature hills and streams. The last greenhouse is the polar zone greenhouse. This greenhouse showcases sub-zero temperatures, housing real penguins in an artificially created habitat. 

Construction

To create such a curvaceous form, the architects had to create a sizable central arch that would provide stability to the entire structure. Horizontal bands grant the structure lateral stability, while sloped vertical trusses hold the curtain wall in place and resist wind loads.

The Ecorium was designed to be a world-renowned facility regarding sustainability. Samoo Architects & Engineers designed the facility using computational tools and simulations to achieve the greenhouses’ best alignment and orientation, which would benefit each greenhouse’s ecology. Shadow tracking analysis was also conducted to prevent any of the semi-dome from shading another semi-dome. The shape and form of the building helped maximize daylighting while remaining highly insulated. Ventilation simulations were performed to assess airflow patterns, allowing the architects to maximize existing airflow patterns and reduce artificial ventilation costs.

Earth ducts and ground source heat pumps are some of the features that can be seen here. In terms of water usage due to its sloping organic shape, the sloped curtain walls would help in rainwater harvesting. Utilizing efficient fixtures and reusing greywater are measures taken to ensure efficient water usage. Furthermore, each greenhouse has advanced instruments that help track the sun’s path and adjust the internal ecosystems accordingly. In total, Samoo Architects & Engineers could reduce the energy consumption of the Ecorium by almost 10%. 

Aerial View1_©Young Chae Park

Conclusion

Samoo Architects & Engineers have created a magnificently designed structure that guides visitors through a series of ecologies while gracefully handling the intricacies of maintaining the said ecologies. The building has been designed to create an adequate environment utilizing innovative technologies and advanced equipment to be sustainable. The Ecorium hosts several other facilities to cater to the visitors’ needs, such as cafeterias, theatres, souvenir shops, and children’s play areas.

References

  1. Alarcón, J. (2013) Ecorium of the National Ecological Institute / Grimshaw + SAMOO Architects & Engineers, ArchDaily. ArchDaily. Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/423255/ecorium-of-the-national-ecological-institute-nbbj-in-collaboration-with-samoo-architects-and-engineers-grimshaw-architects (Accessed: October 23, 2022). 
  2. Ecorium of the National Ecological Institute: S.A.M.O.O. (2020) Arch2O.com. Available at: https://www.arch2o.com/ecorium-of-the-national-ecological-institute-s-a-m-o-o/#! (Accessed: October 23, 2022). 
  3. designboom, cat garcia menocal I. (2014) Samoo completes the Ecorium of National Ecological Institute, designboom. Available at: https://www.designboom.com/architecture/s-a-m-o-o-complete-ecorium-of-the-national-ecological-institute/ (Accessed: October 23, 2022). 
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