Pull up a chair at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza

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Pull up a chair at the Dongdaemun Design Plaza

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Clockwise from left: Spun Chair by Thomas Heatherwick; Seasaw by Louise Campbell; Material Container Stool by Seo Jeong-hwa. Provided by Dongdaemun Design Plaza

The second basement level of the Dongdaemun Design Plaza’s M building seems like just an ordinary floor with its visitor information booths and elevators.

But groups of people keep laughing in one corner. High-pitched screams of joy sometimes fill the air, mainly thanks to four black-and-white chairs that look like spinning tops.

The unconventional seating, created by British designer Thomas Heatherwick, instantly turns the ordinary area into an enjoyable space.

Awkward teenagers and serious men in their 40s and 50s all find the chairs entertaining, with little knowledge that they are part of the furniture collection of the design plaza, the city’s newest landmark. The structure is the gigantic creation of Zaha Hadid, an internationally renowned architect.

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Pony by Eero Aarnio

The plaza unveiled its furniture collection earlier this month.

In keeping with its philosophy, “art in everyday life,” visitors are able to touch and sit on the furniture collection, which is mostly comprised of chairs.

The design plaza has collected 1,869 furnishings by 112 designers from 30 countries. Out of these, 487 pieces are available for visitors to view.

Since the items are placed randomly throughout the three main buildings of the design plaza, it’s necessary to explore until you come across one, which is a good chance for people who never had a chance to meander through the city’s new landmark.

This journey can also take you through different parts of the world.

For example, chairs by Thai industrial designer Eggarat Wongcharit are on display, which are made of natural materials such as water hyacinth or rattan. The Gregoria Baluster, a piece made by Filipino designer Ito Kish, borrows details from pillars of traditional Filipino houses. And the Tea Ceremony Chair of Japanese designer Hiroki Takada brings back memories of tea drinking in a small Japanese city.

There is also another way you could enjoy the furniture collection. You can play a guessing game of your own because most of the chairs are made with unusual materials.

For example, there is an off-white Capitello chair inspired by Greek Ionian pillars. It looks stiff and uncomfortable but it is, in fact, cushioned and just right for a minute’s rest.

A seasaw-like chair and a pony-shaped chair are always in use by visitors as they stand out with their bright colors and shapes.

Some seating also gives visitors a moment of isolation as they are surrounded by shades.

Don’t miss the creations of Korean designers, either. Kim Jeong-seob’s Emergence Stool uses cement as its main material, but it still has the beauty of traditional ink-and-wash paintings, which add delicacy and sophistication to the utilitarian piece.

All the furniture is pricey, but the most expensive items can be found at the information desks inside the design plaza. These are the creations of Hadid herself.

One disappointing aspect of the exhibition is the attitude of some visitors. Some left garbage on the furnishings or spent too much time on a certain chair, depriving others of a chance to enjoy it.

Still, the furniture collection is enjoyable in that you can sit back and enjoy modern design masterpieces.

Don’t forget to put on comfortable shoes and bring a camera with you.

The furniture collection is a permanent exhibition and admission is free of charge.


BY SUNG SO-YOUNG [so@joongang.co.kr]


In order to get to the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, take the subway to Dongdaemun History and Culture Park Station, lines No. 2, 4 or 5, exit 1.

The buildings inside the design plaza open at 10 a.m. but close at different times.

The earliest closing time is 7 p.m., seven days a week.


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