Jeju is a small volcanic island off the southern coast of South Korea that is home to some of the nation’s most beautiful landscapes - including the highest mountain in the country. The diverse and wild land is celebrated in the design of the Jeju Natural Heritage Center by architecture firm poly.m.ur. The project's undulating form topped with a green roof mimics the volcanic formations of the island. Rather than being placed in the landscape the Center is formed out of the landscape, providing a unique relationship for visitors who can explore every facet of the building.
From above the center is almost indistinguishable from the landscape, as the stepped green roof tops a pair of undulating wings. Views of the landscape dominate from this vantage point, which allows visitors to access the other side of the building. Two large outdoor pavilions at the entrances serve as natural gathering places.
The architects describe the project’s design principle: “circulation strategy is central to the place-making, which forms a knot creating crossings and loops in, out, and around the roofscape, sunken terraces and the interior spaces.” Visitors enter the building from the terraces as one would enter a cave.
The two wings join together in the daylit core and provide easy transitions between galleries, interpretive displays, and other offerings in the center. The sense of exploration is a core design component, and the sunken and undulating rhythm of the building provides a visceral gesture of the land it interprets. Pathways extend seamlessly out from the building, winding through the scenery and looping back again.