Back in 2015, renderings of a striking seaside hotel intended for visitors to the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, spread across the internet. With a massive infinity-sign shape, cascading terraces, and a suspended pool, the design was exactly the kind of outrageous architecture one might expect to see built for the drama-filled international sporting event.
Except it was probably never meant to be more than provocative imagery. The 2018 Games begin this week and, so far, there’s been no further updates on the project. What does exist is a bona fide starchitect hotel completed well ahead of the opening ceremony, designed by Pritzker Prize winner Richard Meier.
Located on the coast of Gangneung, the seaside resort town home to the Olympic ice skating, speed skating, and hockey arenas (and the proposed “infinity sign” hotel if it were real), the Seamarq stays true to Meier’s form, showing off his signature affinity for geometry, natural light, and the color white.
The hotel overlooks the East Sea, Gyeongpo Lake, and the Taebaek mountains, emerging from the land and water as an orderly pile of glass, concrete, and stone. The structure loosely follows the topography of the surroundings, placing a trapezoidal 11-story tower on a four-story banquet hall base. Almost all of the rooms have ocean views, and the public spaces, especially the deck and infinity pool that seem to flow right into the water, are defined by a clean expansiveness.
In a press release, Meier said the spaces are “in many ways related” to some of his early residential designs, such as the Smith House (1967) and the Douglas House (1973), because of the “open living space, a great deal of transparency, and an openness to the nature around the site.”
The Seamarq is Meier’s first project in South Korea and was commissioned as part of a plan to revitalize the region ahead of the Games. According to the hotel’s website, it’s also the country’s first “luxtige” hotel (that is “luxury” and “prestige,” an example of “Konglish” monikers apparently rampant in the local real estate industry). Last month, it got a shoutout as part of the Pyeongchang entry in the New York Times’s “52 Places to Go in 2018“ list.
As these Games begin, the athletes are certainly lucky that organizers managed to finish all the venues and competitor accommodations in time, but so are the visitors who will be staying at the Seamarq. Just look at the views.