Sign up for VMSPACE, Korea's best architecture online magazine.

Login Join

Siheung City Engage in Unjust Practices During the Siheung Cultural Center Construction Project

etc. Kim Bokyoung May 24, 2024

SPACE May 2024 (No. 678) 


First concept and design plan of Siheung Cultural Center (Mar. 2021, by Siheung City)

Second concept and design plan of Siheung Cultural Center (Nov. 2021, by Siheung City)​


On Mar. 14, the Korea Architects Institute declared a boycott of the Siheung Cultural Center Design Competition (2022) following the re-announcement. This has been called in light of the revelations of Siheung City’s unfair practices concerning J Architecture (pseudonym), who won the design competition in Oct. last year. 


The problems began at the planning stage of the project. When implementing a public construction project, a business plan must be reviewed in advance in accordance with Article 23 of the Act On The Promotion Of Building Service Industry. Siheung City had received a review of the project plan from Arcihtecture & Urban Research Institute (auri). The plan was to construct a cultural and assembly facility on a scale of GFA of 2,796m2 (B1 – 3F) with a construction budget of 7.2 billion KRW. auri, in charge of the review, determined that the construction costs should be at least 12.18 million KRW per pyeong, not 8.48 million KRW, as this is a cultural complex and not a simple office building. 


Public institutions must notify the Public Architecture Support Center how they will use any opinions received prior to the review and then undergo deliberation as part of the Public Building Deliberation Committee. However, Siheung City did not accept the recommendation of the preliminary review agency and announced design competition guidelines based on a new planning design plan for the scale of a B1 to 5F building, without any increase to the construction costs. Although there are stringent prior-review procedures, the institution of prior- review do not interfere with the deliberation process and there are many regions where there is no Public Building Deliberation Committee, where in such cases the local architecture committee would be substituting the Public Building Deliberation Committee. For these reasons there are cases where the system fails. 


Meanwhile, the guidelines for the Siheung Cultural Center Design Competition included a detailed concept map for each floor that called for piloti spaces to be included on the first and third floors above ground. According to Article 119 of the Building Act, piloti spaces should be included in the GFA unless it is used for ‘elevated passage ways or parking spaces’, yet Siheung City calculated the GFA of the building as 2,878m2, adding floors to the plan while excluding the piloti space from calculation. Including the piloti areas used for outside events and outside decks, the GFA increases approximately 60% to 4,200m2. The omission of construction costs from an increase of the GFA is to address a situation in which there is an increase in construction costs exceeding 30%, and public architecture projects must go under a re-evaluation of the prior-review process. When calculating with a GFA of 4,200m2, the construction costs per pyeong falls to 5.66 million KRW, which is lower than half of the construction costs per pyeong of approximately 12 million KRW for the Siheung Media Center, which had also conducted a design competition as a cultural and assembly facility in 2021. 


The project, which was initially pushed forward with low construction budget that did not match the purpose and size of the building, led  to unfair actions towards the architect. Despite Siheung City’s own working instructions to proceed with the detailed design only when the construction cost estimated in the basic design is within the expected construction cost range, they requested continuous design modifications to reduce the construction cost without providing an accurate budget target. In a press release on Mar. 19, Siheung City explained that the project was in progress with a construction cost of 12.448 billion KRW, stating, ‘It is not true that the Siheung Cultural Center was forced to set the construction cost of 7.2 billion KRW, including outdoor pilotis, etc’, yet the moment at which that cost was approved was just one month before contract termination. J Architecture provided design books for the proposal to Siheung City despite their concerns regarding indiscreet design changes, yet abuse of power such as active non-cooperative actions from the manager in charge, demands for unofficial structural changes, and forcing free additional tasks under the pretext of extending services continued. 


Meanwhile, the construction cost of the Siheung Cultural Center Design Competition re-announced on Mar. 11 was set at about 9 billion KRW, significantly less than the 12.448 billion KRW approved in Sep. 2023. Kim, principal of J Architecture is currently pursuing a lawsuit to prevent secondary damage caused by unfair practices in future public construction project procedures.