Leeum Samsung Museum of Art


The Leeum Samsung Museum of Art is a cultural complex run by the Samsung Foundation of Culture. It is composed of three exhibition buildings and a sculpture garden. The three buildings converge into a central mixing chamber that forms the lobby and information area.


OMA designed the masterplan for the 27,000m2 complex as well as the Samsung Child Education & Culture Center. The dominant feature of the OMA building is a massive black concrete box that confronts the visitor immediately at the entrance. The box is suspended within large excavation in the undulating topography and serves as the single light source to the space.


Museum 1, designed by Mario Botta, houses a collection of traditional Korean art, of which 36 pieces are designated national treasures. Included in the collection are landscapes and folk paintings, traditional ceramics and porcelain. Botta utilized terra cotta bricks on the building’s façade as a modern interpretation of Seoul’s history as a walled city, and to reference the traditional ceramic art inside. Soft lighting gently grazes the façade to accentuate its form and texture.


Museum 2, designed by Jean Nouvel, features modern and contemporary art from both Korean and foreign artists. Nouvel used extra white glass and rusted stainless steel to create the exhibition boxes. The freely arranged exhibition boxes penetrate the glass skin and allow for a more controlled exhibition space with perfectly modulated lighting. The main exhibition hall in Museum 2 is a completely open space without any supporting posts thanks to post-tension building techniques.


L’Observatoire created a lighting masterplan to unify the site and lit the facades and entrances to all three buildings, the mixing chamber as well as the exhibition spaces of Museum 2 and the Child Education Center.

Location Seoul, South Korea
Date Completed 2004
Architect Ateliers Jean Nouvel
Architect Rem Koolhaas / OMA
Architect Mario Botta Architetto
Client Samsung Foundation
Type Museums + Cultural Institutions
Status Built

L'Observatoire Intl Team
Principal Hervé Descottes
Project Leader Nathalie Rozot
Photo Credits Yum Seung Hoon, Samsug Foundation