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Dongdaemun Design Plaza: A BIM Proof-of-Concept


Exploring the DDP

The DDP is a unique structure designed by Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) in collaboration with the Seoul-based design studio Samoo Architects & Engineers (SAMOO). It sits squarely in the center of Dongdaemun District, a historic district of Seoul known for its 24-hour shopping and cafés.

The building serves as a centralized launch pad of sorts for Korea’s design industry, comprising five separate halls for aspects of design. These halls are made up of an art hall, a museum, a design lab, a design market, several exhibition halls and the Dongdaemun History and Culture Park.

The DDP’s undulating geometry is typical of the late Hadid’s design style and creates a modern impression in a historical part of the city, emulating the fluidity of a city which is always changing.

Putting BIM to the Test

As popular as BIM is in the European and North American construction industries, it’s primarily considered in South Korea to be no more than an additional cost in design and construction. The DDP was the first of several public projects undertaken by the Korean government in a bid to prove that BIM can have a huge impact on the country’s construction industry.
However, because the DDP was a publicly funded project, the government had to make some concessions and could only use BIM for the detailed design and construction stages.

The first step to using BIM on the project was to bring all of the project members on board. ZHA uses Rhino parametric modeling software for most of its work, but Samsung Construction and Engineering (SCE), which was brought on to handle the design of large-scale systems like mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP), was very firmly set in more traditional design methods.

To tackle this issue, BIM consultant Gehry Technologies needed to train 10 staff members from SCE to model the entire project in Digital Project software.

“Samsung’s team started out working in 3D, but wanted to stick with traditional processes for everything else, which was quite a challenge,” explained Eddie Can, project architect at ZHA. “However, after a while they realized BIM was helping them and started drawing and cutting sections in the software, particularly for the geometrically complex concrete formwork, and using it to set out on site.”

It still ended up being a bit of a runaround, however, as SCE refused to use BIM processes for every step.

“We wanted to implement a common data environment for sharing information, but privacy issues made this impossible,” Can continued. “Samsung had its own proprietary system and didn’t want to make its cloud system public due to security issues.”

A Unique Design Challenge

Although BIM was only used for detailed design and construction, there was plenty of both to be had in the DDP project.

The building’s façade is built of over 45,000 panels with unique sizes, perforations and degrees of curvature. Because of the complexity, this would have been nearly impossible to model within traditional CAD software.

As with most complex designs, the DDP mandated some adjustments throughout the design process. Client requests resulted in the need to adjust geometry and costs to suit design intentions and the project’s budget and the use of BIM allowed the team to manage the design’s quality while keeping costs down and the design’s integrity intact.

Once everything was ready for construction, the team used 4D simulations to demonstrate the entire construction sequence, including necessary temporary structures. These simulations also illustrated the process of constructing the roof’s massive truss structure, including the planning of truck maneuvers.

“Adding in limiting parameters is more accurate for tolerances, helps control detailing and is therefore more beneficial for construction,” explained Can. “As a result, the final design is still Zaha Hadid but more buildable, with better quality and lower costs.”

The final product was completed in 2013 and left Seoul with a stunning new stage for its creative and design industries.

For more information, check out the Dongdaemun Design Plaza on the Zaha Hadid Architects website and on

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