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Revising the Anti-Pavilion: MASS STUDIES: Pace Gallery Seoul


written by
Cho Minsuk
photographed by
Kim Youngkwan (unless otherwise indicated)
materials provided by
edited by
Bang Yukyung

SPACE March 2024 (No. 676) 



ʻFour Courtyardsʼ is situated at the northeastern end of Itaewon-ro, within a complex urban condition where commercial streets, residential areas, cultural facilities, and the verdant surroundings of Namsan Mountain converge. The commercial facility was completed in 2012, following the redesign of the above-ground portion of a building that had been suspended in 2009, with only the underground structure constructed at that time. The original design of a single building was revised, dividing it into two above-ground buildings to better fit the surrounding scale and topography. Four distinctive exterior spaces, including a courtyard with a garden created by the existing rear retaining wall facing Namsan Mountain, an ‘empty’ courtyard at the second floor, and two underground courtyards, were designed to integrate the building into the urban fabric of Itaewon.



Exterior view of Lawrence Weiner, PEELED PAST THE CORE, 2016, Language + the materials referred to, Dimensions variable ©Lawrence Weiner / Image courtesy of Pace Gallery

Pace Gallery Seoul / Image courtesy of Pace Gallery

Since 2019, MASS STUDIES has undertaken the interior renovation in three phases: first for the Pace Gallery spanning the first through third floors of the front building, and subsequently for the tea house with exhibition space (Pace Gallery/Osulloc Tea House) located on the first floor of the rear building. If the starting point of the building design was to appropriate the existing retaining wall, the interior space design followed suit with another appropriation, by naturally extending the spatial character and materiality of the existing building’s exterior into the interior. In the predominantly open, two ground floor spaces, modules of exterior black brickwork are extended with black granite, effectively connecting the urban public realm with the interior. Meanwhile, the galleries on the second and the third floors extended the spatial quality of the exterior by using the same wooden deck flooring indoors as well. The ground floor gallery keeps the existing black concrete ceiling, while the ceiling of tea house is finished with on-site woven black rope, adding a delicate tactile element that continues the dark and calm atmosphere of the space. 


(left) Pace Gallery/Osulloc Tea House, Seoul / Image courtesy of Pace Gallery, (right) IInstallation view of Robert Nava, Pace Gallery Seoul, 2023 ©Robert Nava / Image courtesy of Pace Gallery

On the second and third floors of the gallery, air conditioning equipment is discreetly installed behind the wall to secure the minimum 3m ceiling height, meeting essential functional demand. The interior walls are composed of fixed walls and movable walls that can be rotated or moved for various exhibitions. Sunshade screens made of linen fabric, roll-up blinds, and blackout curtains are used to provide flexible control of natural light. The indoor space of the tea house expands into the courtyard through sliding glass doors. Starting from the retaining wall, which was a byproduct of the collision between city and nature, the design process evolved over time, converging into the architecture and interior space we see today. 


Pace Gallery Seoul / Image courtesy of Pace Gallery

Installation view of Sam Gilliam, Pace Gallery Seoul, 2021 ©Sam Gilliam / Image courtesy of Pace Gallery 

You can see more information on the SPACE No. March (2024).


MASS STUDIES (Cho Minsuk, Park Kisu)

Design team

Kang Junkoo, Chun Bumhyun, Kim Jangwoon, Park Jong


Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Korea


cultural and assembly facility (exhibition space)

Site area


Building area


Gross floor area

total – 6,267.19m², Scope of construction &#

Building scope

B5, 3F (scope of construction – 1F – 3

Building to land ratio


Floor area ratio



steel frame

Interior finishing

gallery – charred ash, wood veneer, paint o

Structural engineer


Mechanical and electrical engineer

HANA Consulting Engineers Co., Ltd.


gallery – CHANGC, tea house – EAN R&C

Design period

gallery – Feb. 2021 – June 2022, tea h

Construction period

gallery – Feb. 2021 – Oct. 2022, tea h


Pace Gallery Seoul

Cho Minsuk
Cho Minsuk founded the Seoul-based firm MASS STUDIES in 2003. It has been committed to advancing architectural discourse through socio-cultural and urban research, as well as built works that have been recognised globally. Representative works include the Pixel House, Missing Matrix, Bundle Matrix, Shanghai Expo 2010: Korea Pavilion, Daum Space.1, Tea Stone/Innisfree, Southcape Spa & Suite, Dome-ino, Daejeon University Student Dormitory, Space K Museum, Pace Gallery Seoul, and the Won Buddhism Wonnam Temple and the French Embassy in Korea New construction and Renovation (collaboration with SATHY, Paris). Current in-progress projects, all selected through competitions, include the new Seoul Film Center, Danginri Cultural Power Plant, Yang-dong District Main Street, and Yeonhui Public Housing Complex. He co-curated the 2011 Gwangju Design Biennale and was the commissioner and co-curator of the Korean Pavilion for 2014 Venice Biennale, which was awarded the Golden Lion for Best National Participation. In late 2014, PLATEAU Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, held its first-ever architecture exhibition titled ‘Before/After: Mass Studies Does Architecture’.
He was recently appointed as the architect of the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion 2024 in the U.K.