Courtesy BIG, INABA, MAD, Mass Studies

Walk This Way


Three Proposals for Ansan

Urban Plan, Architecture, Lighting Prototype

Various Scales

Ansan, Korea

Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art

The joint project by the four firms, BIG (Copenhagen), INABA (Los Angeles), MAD (Beijing), and Mass Studies (Seoul) uses versatile architectural forms that change in size and use. The principals of the four offices, Bjarke Ingels, Jeffrey Inaba, Yansong Ma, and Minsuk Cho reinterpret the term ‘economies of scale’ to mean the value of a single architectural form that functions at several scales. The works are adaptable enough so that the same form can be enlarged or shrunk and still function as a building. They have the added capacity to dramatically change in size and transform in use from building to furniture to toy.


Given today’s economic instability, the architects propose an architecture that can be sized to accommodate changes in available funding. The forms have been developed so that if a project’s investment capital decreases, it can be scaled down; alternatively, if greater financing becomes available, the same form can be scaled up. These firms believe architecture does not have to be inhabitable and in tune with the human scale at just one size; it can be conceived with greater utility in mind so that the form can be enjoyed even when reduced or increased by 40, 50 or 60 percent. In the context of the exhibition, they have taken the idea of scalability further by developing works that function even when scaled 1,000 and 10,000 percent.


At the invitation of the Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art (GMoMA), the offices designed a master plan and a set of four buildings in the city where the museum is located. The plan for a riverfront area of Ansan, a city of 550,000 inhabitants located near Seoul, includes housing, commercial, retail and municipal spaces. The proposed buildings which range in height from 80 to 400 meters and in length up to 1500 meters are displayed in the museum lobby in drawings, animations and four large models.


As an experiment in the economies of scale, the models are also designed as inhabitable objects in their own right. Each model of their urban plan is a furniture piece of their lobby plan. The three-dimensional representations of the buildings function as elements of GMoMA’s interior serving as a new bookshop, a set of seats and tables, a lounge area, and a reception kiosk. As a third variation, the forms will be produced at an even smaller scale as a reading lamp, light fixture, puzzle, and toy.


Architects have throughout time promoted their work through objects that are analogous to their designs for buildings. The architectural model helps audiences to visualize and appreciate a proposed building and in turn generate excitement, anticipation and demand for the project before it is built. In that sense, architecture has always been a practice of advertising scaled versions of itself. BIG INABA MAD MASS attempts to add another level of utility and promotion to this time tested practice by having the large-scale proposal advertise the small-scale version of the same form. The show’s architectural models have been made to draw interest in the urban plan while the urban plan was made to invite visitors to experience the works displayed in the show. 


Walk This Way


Walk This Way is a way finding device. The project adopts the arrow graphic found on informational signs in order to guide people’s experience. As an icon, the arrow is a beautifully efficient way to both draw attention and provide orientation. In a very immediate way that requires very little mental processing, it calls itself out, offers a quick lay of the land, and leads us to the place it points to. An arrow says, “Hey! From here that is over there.” 


To give both literal and figurative depth to the two-dimensional symbol, Walk This Way is designed as a three-dimensional object that functions as a directional beacon at multiple scales. Two arrows each located at one end of the structure orients people to sites of interest. In its incarnations as a building, the project is situated at Ansan’s current edge. To promote the urban plan created by BIG, INABA, MAD, and Mass Studies, one of the arrow points in the general direction of the proposed development area. The other faces to the downtown to highlight the city’s urban amenities. The building is sited so that the residential units along the arrow facades have views to the waterfront and city center, while units along the longitudinal facades front onto nearby public plazas. In its parallel life as a piece of interior architecture located in the museum’s lobby, one arrow similarly advertises the project’s own purpose by informing guests to approach it for general visitor assistance (a text on the arrow says, “Information Over Here”). The other arrow guides people to the building’s exhibition spaces (its text reads, “To Galleries”). Both arrows are designed to function as reception counters for the museum’s greeting staff. As an additional layer of ‘three-dimensional information,’ the long sides of the structure spell out the museum’s acronym, “G” “M” “O” “M” “A.” At a smaller scale, the project functions as a lamp for way finding at night. 

Project Team

Jeffrey Inaba, Ben Konen, Ayaka Matsushita, Ai Kawamura