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Located right in the middle of Seoul’s central Jung District, the grassy lawns of Seoul Plaza provide residents and visitors alike with a respite from the hustle and bustle of the Korean capital.

Of course, the tranquility of your surroundings is heavily influenced by which way you’re facing, so if you’re really looking to relax, you might want to take a seat on the grass with your back to the building that looks like a colossal, deadly tidal wave about to crash down on you.

Among the buildings surrounding Seoul Plaza is the former City Hall. Built in 1926 during the Japanese occupation of Korea, the structure has the somber design one would expect given the era and circumstances under which it was built.

Despite periodic renovations, eventually the decision was made to build a new City Hall, with more modern facilities and aesthetics. Given the historical value of the old City Hall though, many citizens were opposed to simply tearing it down. Instead, the city converted the former administrative center into the Seoul Metropolitan Library, and built its replacement directly behind it.

▼ The old City Hall, before its replacement went up

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In contrast to the old City Hall’s rigid stone and severe angles, the new structure has a more organic design, made up of elongated curves. Its front surface is almost entirely glass, with a pleasing soft blue hue. And of course, the new City Hall, which opened in 2012, is far more spacious, not to mention taller, than its predecessor.

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Unfortunately, some things actually end up as less than the sum of their parts. For example, curry rice is awesome. Samurai swords are awesome. But curry rice with little pieces of samurai swords in it? Likely to kill you.

The combined design cues of the new City Hall, along with the way it’s wedged up against the Metropolitan Library like a grabby teenager on his third date, come together to give the impression of something else that’s likely to kill you: a tidal wave.

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The effect isn’t lost on citizens, either, who have nicknamed the building Big Wave.

The building’s design is also attracting criticism from some in Japan, where tsunami are an extremely touchy subject as some parts of the country are still in the process of rebuilding following the massive earthquake and subsequent tidal wave of 2011. News provider NNA, which specializes in Asian economic issues, called the design “truly inconsiderate.”

While those criticizing the building’s look have a valid point, it seems unlikely that Seoul’s municipal government approved the funds for what was obviously not a cheap construction project just to thumb their noses at Japan’s misfortune. Is “insensitive” the right word for this situation? Perhaps not. In the meantime, there is one descriptor we can say is absolutely accurate for Seoul’s new City Hall: terrifying.

Sources: Hachimakiko, NNA
Top image: Korea.net
Insert images: Wikipedia, Korea.net, Hachima Kiko