‘seoul loop’ by kim min jae architects 


Swarming with overpopulation and plagued by an absolute lack of green spaces, the rapidly industrialized city of Seoul is suffering from intense carbon emissions — and according to a Seoul Metropolitan Government survey, most of these emissions originate from buildings concentrated in the heart of the capital. In response to those facts, local practice Kim Min Jae Architects has proposed the ‘Seoul Loop’, a super-structure powered by artificial photosynthesis to pump oxygen into the congested city. 

seoul loop 1



using artificial photosynthesis to ‘oxygenate’ the city


Plant photosynthesis naturally absorbs carbon dioxide and creates a virtuous cycle that exhales fresh oxygen, but the overcrowded city center leaves very little room to grow plants. Therefore, lead architect Kim Min Jae (see more here) proposed securing an area for artificial photosynthesis and building a space for growing plants above the existing urban fabric. The chosen site was Huam-Dong, highly concentrated in low-rise buildings and devoid of greenery, making it ideal for a superimposed volume.


Explaining his approach, Min Jae shares: ‘Artificial photosynthesis is a chemical process that biomimics the natural process of photosynthesis to convert sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into carbohydrates and oxygen. Compared to natural photosynthesis, artificial processes produce oxygen, high-value compounds, and hydrogen. Thus, oxygen can be supplied directly to the city, and the rest of the products can be stored as added value.’

seoul loop 2



a looping, timber volume floating atop low-rise buildings


To maximize spatial use and the impact of artificial photosynthesis without disrupting the existing buildings, Min Jae envisioned a loop-type building that floats atop the city, its roof equipped with artificial photosynthesis facilities. At such a high elevation, the generated oxygen can reach greater distances. 


A mass timber structure is applied to the entire ‘Seoul Loop’ as an environmentally friendly substitute for carbon-intensive materials. The roof features artificial photosynthetic equipment and photosynthetic panels. Oxygen, hydrogen, and high-value compounds generated at this level get collected and stored in a container at the roof edge. Meanwhile, oxygen moves in a pipe within the facade and gets released into the city. Inside the building is a vase for growing plants and small facilities where natural photosynthesis, cultivation, sale, and storage of green plants can occur.seoul loop 3




Finally, the studio envisioned a modular system in the plant cultivation area to better manage the infrastructure. The modules hold the same width but different lengths and are classified mainly into ‘natural park’ and ‘farming’ sectors. Additionally, small-scale buildings are placed as interactive programs around the modules: grocery store, information kiosk, F&B, building facilities, core, crop storage, and crop sales office.

seoul loop 8

seoul loop 9

seoul loop 10


seoul loop 5seoul loop 6





project info:


name: Seoul Loop

location: Huam Dong Area, Seoul, South Korea
architecture: Kim Min Jae Architects




designboom has received this project from our DIY submissions feature, where we welcome our readers to submit their own work for publication. see more project submissions from our readers here.


edited by: lea zeitoun | designboom