Coursed stone: Radio station in the Himalayas
Text: Virginia Zangs
At a site north of the main Himalayan massif, the Korean architecture office Archium has layered stones into an unusual work environment characterised by links to both tradition and the locality. Offering closed-off facades that provide shelter from the wind, the Himalesque radio broadcasting station blends in perfectly with its surroundings to the extent that it is practically imperceptible.
Architects:Kim In-Cheurl & Archium, Seoul, Korea
Location: Jomsom, Mustang, Annapuma Circuit, Himalaya, Nepal
The building has been erected in the former kingdom of Mustang, which is located 3,000 metres above sea level. The remote site on a high slope in the Kali Gandaki River valley did not offer easy conditions for carrying out a construction project. The arid landscape with its harsh climate typical of very high altitudes is neither rich in raw materials nor does it have a well-developed infrastructure. The architects therefore fell back on proven vernacular methods and materials. Accordingly, the simple structure with its concrete foundations and coursed stone walls was built by local craftsman, whereby use was made of local gneiss stone characterised by striking parallel structures.
The harsh climate of the surroundings required a special entrance solution and thus a second solid stone wall envelopes the rectangular building to shield the radio workers and visitors from the mountain weather. Small glazed openings in this protective second wall are lit at night, shedding light onto the outside corridor, which leads down to the lower storey of the building.
Like the façade, the interior walls consist of solid coursed stone. Offices, recording studios and meeting rooms are organised around a colonnaded court open to the sky to let in daylight to the adjacent rooms. The cement columns supporting the stone ceiling lend the central gathering place the feel of an ancient agora.
The furnishings are made up of a variable system of modules carved out of solid tree trunks which can be put together into benches and tables. Wooden frames have been used for the windows and doors to provide a warm contrast to the sober stone surfaces.
The Himalesque project is anything but a conventional work environment. Rather, the concept behind the outer and inner rooms was governed by the exigencies of erecting a building in extremely challenging climatic conditions. The structural features and materials so much determine the design that considerations such as functionality became of minor importance.
Integrating the outer appearance of the building into its mountain surroundings means isolation for the interior rooms, where the walls of undressed stone and the simple furnishings create a meditative, almost spiritual feel.
Structural engineer: Sambu (Nepal) Pvt. Ltd.
Construction management: Kim in-cheurl
Designer: Jo joonyoung
Material: in-situ concrete, natural stone
Site area: 1,500 m
Usable space: 740 m