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6 August 2018

Property Week Explores LG Science Park, a.k.a. “World’s Largest Corporate Research Campus”

Designed by HOK, LG Science Park in Seoul connects scientists and researchers via interconnected buildings, landscaped plazas and a 2,000-seat food court—with more to come by 2022.

Excerpted from the July 20, 2018, issue of Property Week:

In April, South Korean conglomerate LG Group opened the doors of its $3.5 billion LG Science Park, which, at 11.9 million square feet, is the largest corporate research campus in the world. When construction work on the site completes in 2022, its 26 buildings will be home to nearly 25,000 employees.

The aim? To bring scientists from 10 of LG’s affiliates together for the first time to work collaboratively in a stimulating environment with all the amenities they need.

Property Week took a tour of the park and spoke to the people behind the gargantuan scheme to find out more about the challenges involved in undertaking such a huge, technical project and what they hope it will achieve for LG and for the city as a whole.

Behind the Design

Creating a central hub for LG scientists—whose disciplines include electronics, chemistry, nanotechnology, fabrication and life sciences—to work together was a long-held ambition of the company’s former chairman, Koo Bon-Moo, who passed away in May shortly after the campus opened.

“Building LG was the chairman’s life’s work, and it was his dream to bring together the different affiliates,” says Larry Malcic, design principal for HOK’s London office, which designed the scheme along with Korean firms Gansam and Chang-jo.

“Because LG works on so many different types of science, he wanted to converge them all together around one single aim—improving people’s lives.”

LG launched a design competition for the project in 2012, and the first phase—which encompassed the first 20 buildings planned for the site—was constructed in just 33 months.

Connecting People + Ideas

The best illustration of Koo’s collaborative ethos is that, although each company has its own entrance, each of the nine-story buildings on the campus are connected to one another both by bridges between buildings and by a vast, three-story space below ground that Malcic calls the “circus maximus.”

It houses a huge food court that can seat more than 2,000 people at once, as well as coffee shops, convenience stores, gyms, private dining rooms that lead out on to small bonsai gardens, event spaces, auditoriums and a daycare center. On the day of Property Week’s visit, employees filtered in and out of one of the auditoriums to have their annual health check-up, paid for by the company.

Worker well-being was also at the center of LG Science Park’s design. Outside, the buildings are connected by gardens and a large public plaza, which has the capacity to host events. Running alongside the campus is a 290,000-sq.-ft. public park owned by LG, and there is also a multipurpose event hall within the ISC building, which will hold exhibitions and cultural events. There is also a museum that, as well as hosting digital art exhibitions, showcases LG’s latest innovations, from self­-driving cars to virtual-reality goggles and the latest high-tech anti-aging creams.

In addition, the areas next to the bridges that connect buildings on the upper floors are given over to communal lounges. When we passed one of these spaces in mid-morning, it is already buzzing with small groups having informal meetings and people working on laptops or perusing magazines from a well-stocked rack over a cup of coffee.

The collaborative approach even extends to other companies, and start-ups have been invited to use dedicated open labs within the park free of charge.

Rethinking the Traditional

This open layout was a bold move for LG—not least because the corporate culture in South Korea is more conservative and hierarchical than it is in the U.K. One concession that did have to be made at the design stage was to rule out balconies that face out into the central atrium from executive offices in one of the buildings, due to concerns about privacy.

“At the beginning LG was unsure about the circus maximus, but we fought for it and now they love it,” Malcic says. “The campus was designed to propel LG into the 21st century. Discoveries are no longer based around single disciplines but a multidisciplinary team approach. People still think of scientists as lonely figures in their labs. The reality is that the more they can share their ideas the more those ideas will germinate.”

“People still think of scientists as lonely figures in their labs, the reality is that the more they can share their ideas the more those ideas will germinate.”

Enabling knowledge sharing was also key to the layout of London research hub the Francis Crick Institute, another scheme designed by HOK. But with some staff working on highly confidential projects that cannot even be shared with other companies in the LG Group, there was a need for access to certain spaces to be tightly controlled. There are five different levels of security across the campus and credentials are checked when entering certain areas.

The campus is a mix of office space and laboratory space, with labs divided between ‘wet’ (where scientists test chemicals or biological material) and ‘dry’ (where they mostly work on computers). Because the projects LG works on are changing all the time, the space needed to be highly flexible and dividing it up in such a way was a challenge for the architects. In the end, around 50 percent of the total floor space was designed to be flexible and because of this much of the lab space has an almost temporary feel, arranged in a modular layout with partitions that can be changed depending on need.

Property Week