Sanctuary For Academic Refugees

Evolo competition proposal
Gangnam, located at the heart of Seoul, is one of the busiest, and liveliest place in Korea. It has one of the biggest entertainment district in Korea. However, Gangnam is also famous for hundreds of private and corporate academies (“Hagwon”) that are located along the Gangnam-daero.
Software Used
SketchUp 2016, Vray 2, Rhino 5, Grasshopper
Sanctuary for Academic Refugees – Hagwon 2.0

South Korea’s Education Crisis

Gangnam, located at the heart of Seoul, is one of the busiest, and liveliest place in Korea. It has one of the biggest entertainment district in Korea. However, Gangnam is also famous for hundreds of private and corporate academies (“Hagwon”) that are located along the Gangnam-daero.


Students flocking to Gangnam can be classified into roughly three groups:

1.      Students that are studying for Korean SATs.

2.      Students preparing for civil service examinations.

3.      Students learning various skills such as secondary languages, computer programs in order to get a job.


They are not middle or high school students, they are adults mostly at the age of 20 through 40. Not just Gangnam, but cities like Pyeong-chon, Noryangjin are also famous for its numerous private academies. Usually, these academies are located close to each other so that the students can attend different classes without traveling significant distances. The streets that these Hagwons are located are called “Hagwon-ga”.

Normal routine for students living in cities close to Seoul who prepare for Korean SATs are like this:

They usually get up around 06:00 in the morning in order to catch the bus. Usually these busses are crowded with students trying to get to Hagwons which are mostly located in Gangnam area. Once they arrive, hundreds of students wait patiently for the elevator to carry them to the floor where their classes are at. Around 12:00 pm, students gather at the cafeterias located inside the academy building to have lunch. After that, students take a stroll around the academy building. Then they continue taking classes until they have dinner at the same cafeteria at 06:00 pm. After dinner, most students have self-study sessions when they move to a quieter room. 10:00 pm, students wait for their buses which takes them to their homes. Even when they arrive home, they usually keep studying until very late in the morning. On average, students spend more than 2 hours commuting and many of them don’t get enough sleep or exercise.

Students who live in rural areas far from Hagwon-ga, students who doesn’t want to waste traveling, students who want to isolate themselves from any form of entertainment goes to Academies with dormitories. These students are only alowed to leave the hagwon premises once or twice a month. Most of these facilities are located in the rural areas so many students feel isolated and lonely.

Learning conditions in these hagwons vary significantly depending on how much they are willing to spend. Some hagwons cost over $22000 a year and the quality of the facilities are like that of 5 star hotels. However, not every student can afford a place like this. They have to study in buildings that doesn’t have sufficient ventilations or heating and have to live in a dorm that are crowded with people.

 Most of these students however have no better options. So every year, millions of students flock to hagwons to run away from all the temptations and to study for a better future.

We realized that these students were like refugees, not from war but from the Korean education system. We wanted to create a sanctuary for “educational refugees”, a space tailored to the student’s needs.

The solution we came up can be summarized into three keywords:

1.      Specialization

2.      Isolation/Concentration

3.      Optimization


1.     Specialization

First, we classified the Korean academies (hagwons) into four categories:

1.      Small hagwons run by individuals. (A)

2.      Corporate hagwons. (B)

3.      Classes taught by “Celebrity Educators” (C)

4.      Public seminars and study groups. (D)

Every type requires its own distinct spaces.

Then we added the dormitory, accommodation, and Voids.

The building is consisted of disc shaped slabs supported by 12 beams and is enclosed in a tube shaped structure. Disc shaped slabs allow natural light to penetrate deep into the building. Each individual modules designed for each type of hagwons are lodged in between the discs. The size of these modules are like this:


1 story                                                                                               20 stories







As for small hagwons that needs more flexibility in zoning capabilities, different spaces are divided by glass panels that can be moved and deleted easily. When the number of students increase, it can expand both vertically and horizontally. Also, glass panels allow more light to enter and gives people a clearer view.


Corporate hagwons on the other hand doesn’t require as much flexibility. So, volumes dedicated to these academies are divided into bigger pie shaped masses.


Public seminar rooms and study rooms need to be easily accessible. So they are located at the lower part of the building.


Celebrity educators are a unique phenomenon in Korea. They are called “celebrity educators” because millions of students takes these educator’s classes through internet courses, TV broadcasts. Their live lectures are so popular that students have to wait for more than a year before they get their turn. These classes needs to accommodate large number of people. Thus, the classroom was designed to resemble an arena a circular space with the lecturer in the center.

Dormitories and accommodations are located at the top floors of the building allowing the residents to enjoy clear view of the sky and enough sunlight. The dormitories are arranged at an angle so that each room can get even amount of sunlight. They are also facing inwards for more privacy.

The building is divided into five different parts for each program. Voids act as a buffer zone between these parts. They are indoor parks that provide students enough spaces to exercise, jog, or even ride bikes.


2.     Isolation/Concentration

Main concern for students coming to Gangnam to study is that there are too many distractions. Between hagwons there are internet cafes, bars or even clubs. The building needed to be isolated from these distractions and focused on learning environments.


3.     Optimization

One of the biggest inconveniences found in conventional hagwons was transportation. Transportation can be divided into two categories: horizontal and vertical. Horizontal transportations include busses, cars, or trains that people take to get to the building. Gangnam is one of Seoul’s biggest transportation hubs which makes it easily accessible. Number of ramps allow vehicles to travel up to different platforms. When students arrive at these platforms, they take the express elevators that takes them to approximate floors in a short time. Then they take a shorter elevators located inside the center of the building to travel to the exact floors. We call this vertical transportation.