N H D M Architects explores new potentials in existing typologies

Varying Scales

N H D M Architects explores new potentials in existing typologies

Open Ground, Nam June Paik Art Center, Yongin, Korea, 2017 (Courtesy N H D M Architects)

This article is part of our series of profiles on The Architectural League of New York’s 2023 Emerging Voices winners published in the March/April issue of AN. The full list of winners can be found here

It is hard to pinpoint a single defining typology for N H D M’s work. This variety is a testament to the interests and backgrounds of the firm’s founders, Nahyun Hwang and David Eugin Moon.

Moon, the son of immigrant parents, studied at the University of Michigan and the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD). Hwang began her career in South Korea after studying architecture at Yonsei University. She came to the United States for graduate school (also at the GSD, where the duo met) and was “surprised” by the disciplinary compartmentalization. In South Korea, “urbanism, architecture, and larger territorial thinking was always one,” she explained to AN. This way of thinking is deeply integrated into N H D M’s ethos.

Before starting their own practice, Hwang and Moon designed for internationally renowned offices: Hwang for OMA, Herzog & de Meuron, and James Corner Field Operations, and Moon for Shigeru Ban and OMA, though the two didn’t overlap there. These roles were formative, as they were able to work on projects of varying scales worldwide.

Interim Urbanism: Youth, Dwelling, City at the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism in Seoul in 2019 (Courtesy Nam June Paik Art Center)

“We joked that we spent maybe too long working in other offices before we founded our practice. But at the same time, that meant that we worked on many different types of projects,” Moon said.

Hwang and Moon’s first commission came over a decade ago while they were still working for other practices. They designed the Nam June Paik library, a small project in Yongin-si, South Korea that houses the archives of the Nam June Paik Art Center.

Among the practice’s current work is the Librería Barco de Papel. Located in New York City’s Jackson Heights neighborhood, the storefront is the last Spanish-language bookstore in the state. To improve the “accessibility and visibility” of the shop, garage-door windows will define the street-facing facade, alongside of which display tables, shelving, and seating will be brought out to the sidewalk. Furniture will be rearranged both inside and outside the shop to accommodate programming.

N H D M has worked on prototypes for housing, and redesigned parks. The firm previously presented work at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2021 and will exhibit again this year.

Speculating about what projects are most intriguing, Hwang offered that the office is excited about “any project that gives us a way to explore new potentials in existing typologies.” She continued: “We’re interested in [the] public and collective realm, always. We’re also interested in private lives and domesticity and personhood and intimacy, and then how that relates to the collective realm and bigger pictures of the public.”