Gallery: Foliage Covered Botanical Building by Mass Studies


If you’re a fan of botanical architecture, this might just be the coolest building ever. Architects Minsuk Cho and Kisu Park of Mass Studies designed this flora-clothed multi-level building to house Belgian fashion designer Ann Demeulemeester’s store in Seoul, South Korea. The building was completed in October 2007 and takes green roofs and living walls to another level, using foliage to cover both the external and internal wall surfaces. We love that it looks as if the building is growing up from underneath the greenery, blurring the lines between plants as ornamentation or structure.

On a site located in an alley near Seoul’s rapidly transforming Gangnam district, the building stands as a green marvel, three floors tall, housing the Ann Demeulemeester shop on the first floor, a restaurant above, and a Multi-Shop in the basement. The designers, Seoul-based Mass Studies Architects, wanted to incorporate as much nature as possible into the building within the constraints of a low-elevation, high-density urban environment.

The building is defined through the convergence of natural and artificial, interior and exterior, rather than demonstrating a stark contrast between the dualities. If you’re wondering what those green species are, it’s primarily a geotextile planted with an herbaceous perennial to form the living walls.

+ Mass Studies Architects
+ Ann Demeulemeester
Via Contemporist


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  1. tensile February 9, 2010 at 4:45 am

    The building is defined through the convergence of natural and artificial, interior and exterior, rather than demonstrating a stark contrast between the dualities.
    wow, really cool, never thought someone would build somethink like this!

  2. Louis Vuitton March 12, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    WOW I never thought something like this was possible. I wish my home had grass all over the house. It gives it a unique look.

  3. Two Things « Word... March 10, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    […] Botanical Architecture! Take a look at a building in Seoul, South Korea that has foliage covering bo… Although the city boy in me fears the bugs that might be rampant in such a structure the secret […]

  4. Fran March 2, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    I feel really dumb – I thought it was fake grass, it would be easier to maintain but I suppose all the plastic used wouldn’t be environmentally friendly either – inless it was recycled plastic. Looks amazing though, I love the staircase and use of glass.

  5. saumya February 2, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    this looks really gr8…n literally GREEN…. n d architects r nt sayin tht its green or sustainable…..but i think its jst an attempt 2 try smthing v all like 2 do…

  6. SM January 17, 2008 at 11:48 am

    After checking the Mass Studies site and seeing more detailed photos… it seems the exterior is ivy, the interior stairwell is moss. The ivy is very sustainable, easy to maintain, does work as both insulation and air conditioner, and is pleasing to the eye, and I think a good design solution. The stairwell looks to be moss… very hard to maintain as there doesn’t seem to be external misters (it could have a hidden watering system). Also very aesthetic and functional as air purification, I certainly do not mean to take issue with this type of design… but I think the moss may die, and then it will look very ugly. If I’m wrong, I’m wrong… if it stays alive I find the design innovative and hopeful. I just am skeptical of some design that is aesthetic or “green thinking” before “green functional”. What I especially love is how plants overgrowing a structure give it a “built ruin” look so… more power to this direction of design.

  7. Sarah January 13, 2008 at 1:20 am

    I would be interested to find out the nitty gritty details (cost and sustainability) but I think that people underestimate a great quality of this building – it makes people happy.

    Cities are often run down and gray – this building is vibrant, soft looking and botanical.

  8. Jervis January 12, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Wow! What a great way to bring nature into urban architecture. Not sure about the mechanics though…how is it sustained over time? How is it watered, replaced, etc.? I’ve been trying to build a playset that does the opposite of this building…one that blends in with nature as opposed to bringing nature into the city. ( I’d like to figure out how to grow that kind of sod on several of the vertical surfaces…

  9. the shire January 11, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    that is so awesome I want a house like that sodd walls and all

  10. ryan January 11, 2008 at 4:02 pm

    i would love to see a wall section of this! can this ‘grid-of-sod’ be simply tied back like masonry or is the system more complex? how do the vertical units remain?

  11. Paul Lloyd Johnson January 9, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    I find the negativity about this building alarming. I hope this negativity isn’t coming from actual architects, as we should know better.

  12. Alex January 9, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    I want to reiterate what Kat said on January 8th at 5:51 am. These green walls (green roofs as well) are designed to have as little an impact on maintenance costs and energy costs as possible. They actually cool the walls/roof via evaporation and transpiration through the plants, they add an effective insulation layer, and they reflect light and therefore heat away from the building by shading the walls/roof. The energy needed to pump water and provide nutrients are not enough to counter the energy savings achieved through reducing the heating/cooling load on the building.

  13. Duke January 8, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    Hey Leo Mac,

    Looks like your buildings are not the only things floating!

  14. daniel bremmer January 8, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    It looks like there’s a grid in the green siding, almost like sod or something. Is there a product that people can just go out and buy and stick to the side of their homes and small buildings? If you lived in a wet climate (like the northwest) it wouldn’t require much irrigation, and for people in CA you might be able to create a dripping hose system using grey water.

  15. Kat January 8, 2008 at 5:51 am

    Almost exactly one year ago, Inhabitat did an article about living walls ( and it’s interesting to read comments posted by people with actual facts, rather than just condemning conjectures stated as fact. it would seem that living walls may not just be some wild, fantastically wasteful aesthetic statement, but that aside from being beautiful (especially the ones from that article), they could actually serve a viable purpose. geez!

  16. Kristi January 7, 2008 at 9:07 pm

    It’s an interesting concept, however, I think nature would be better demonstrated if there weren’t obvious geometrical “tiles” of the greenery being used. Nature doesn’t form in the form of box tiles, normally.

    I agree, too, that this building would be a nightmare to upkeep. Plants require specific light and moisture levels that not every corner of the house will be able to supply, which means the need for a daily gardener, and probably in some cases, the need to be constantly replacing some of those “tiles” as the plants die off.

  17. Garth January 7, 2008 at 6:50 pm

    @Leo Mac Ender:

    House boats?

  18. Rainbow January 7, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    Amazing! It looks pretty artificial for my taste.

  19. Juan Carlos January 7, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Isn’t this akin to the huge waste of water that comes from maintaing golf courses and the such?

  20. SM January 7, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    I have to agree with Edna this is more conceptual art than anything useful. I’ve seen installations done like this before and oftentimes it’s photographed days, if not hours, after plants are physically and manually installed onto the side of plaster buildings… as you can see from the interior, a few plants are already browning… there’s no misters in place, something you’d need for moss if that’s what it is. And what is it saying? Plants are paint? Let’s slap plants on modernist cubes? I believe the architects weren’t intending for it to be sustainable, or practical, it’s meant to be surrealist in nature, and visually it is very interesting… but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s somehow environmentally friendly.

  21. Arc January 7, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    Looks good, but thinks badly, I predict that this building interior is a disaster within 50 years.

  22. greg January 7, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    perhaps edna’s concerns about the water and nutrient requirements could be partially allevieted if some portion of the plants produced something edible?

  23. Leo Mac Ender January 7, 2008 at 4:40 am

    Ceep on and never giving up.
    Next will be Floating Homes, I´ll doing it right now.
    Leo Mac Ender

  24. John W. January 6, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    Looks like it has a bad case of building pnuemonia

  25. edna January 4, 2008 at 10:26 am

    Okay, fair enough, I don’t have numbers to back up my “huge” assertion. I was recently involved in project involving these systems and the advice from the landscape architects was that they were unsuitable for the sustainability brief on the building due to water and chemical demands. Regardless of the numbers, however, my point is that artificially growing plants on vertical beds without soil can only be done by introducing water and nutrients artificially. As the plants are unlikely to be native nor diverse, there is limited ecological advantage. To my mind this is an inherently unsustainable approach. Not that any sustainability claims are being made, of course, but that’s one of the conclusions people tend to jump to when faced with this sort of thing.

  26. Yuli January 4, 2008 at 3:42 am

    It reminds me of Jean Nouvel building, Musee de Quay Branly.
    Interesting to see how architects create new definition in building materials.
    Yet, it is too early to judge this type of finishing/materialization is a Green Architecture (or Sustainable)
    It’s gonna be more interesting if we can get further information on how it was installed and be maintained..
    if it really contributes extra O2 to its surrounding environment.

  27. josh January 4, 2008 at 2:52 am

    Sexy beyond words…. and Seoul, from my understanding, is a relatively moist climate. I don’t think the maintenance would be to demanding.

  28. Kat January 3, 2008 at 9:02 pm

    Hot! Really, that building is just sexy and sensual.

  29. Dpaul January 3, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    Where did you find out that this exterior material had huge water and chemical requirements?

  30. Brian January 3, 2008 at 10:57 am

    It would be nice if someone could follow this up with regular photo updates of the place.

  31. edna January 3, 2008 at 7:17 am

    I’m not keen on this sort of thing actually. Looks green, as in the colour, but the huge water and chemical requirements of plants growing in odd places (some in the dark, sometimes hot sometimes cold, vertical beds) are surely not the right way to go about sustainable architecture.

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