In Busan, South Korea, overlooking the calming waters of the Songdois a café unlike any other in the country, possibly in the world, too. Occupying a large piece of land and scaling several feet high, café EL16.52 is a spectacle of the most stunning kinds. Whether you’re a design enthusiast, an art lover, or simply one who appreciates beauty in whatever form, the out-the-box architecture of EL 16.52 will delight your senses in every way.

Designed by JOHO Architecture, a Seoul-based architecture and design lab specializing in the conceptualizing of innovative design work that challenges the boundaries of traditional architecture, EL 16.52 is a design masterpiece. The café’s distinct half-circular pattern ensures that it stands out, as the sun’s rays reflect on the glass additions that fill each half-circle. Besides being an unusual but acceptably unique design feature that was inspired by the waves of the nearby waters, the use of glass ensures that the interior of EL16.52 is well-lit and thus creates a vibrant, inspiring atmosphere for guests to the restaurant.


Having recently opened, EL16.52 is fast growing in popularity, attracting enthusiastic diners who appreciate an inspiring view while enjoying a meal. ‘EL’ stands for altitude above sea level, and 16.52 signifies the altitude level of the underground floor where the main building was built. The aim of construction was to interpret the differences in levels between the sea and land in the sense of architectural archetype and ultimately maximize it commercially.


The project structure shares a common context and legacy with the strata of Amnam Park, which is just across from the cafe. Lee explains that “the task of engaging the concept of strata as accumulated layers of time as part of the architectural context necessitated that the circulation of the upper and lower levels of the strata be materialized through an illustrative emblem, which could be systematically applied as a pattern”.

Lee goes on to say that “the repetition of a figurative motif is, foremost also an element which connects the layers of time with the site, before becoming a means to solidify the space. The repetition of the waves is an important architectural device manifest of the temporality of the strata, as well as an embodiment of a sense of reverence and significance towards the sea”.


The EL16.52 site borders two roads, one at B2 level extending towards the public carpark at the seaside, and another at 2F level leading to Songdo city center. With an approximately 13.5 m level difference between the two roads, significant constraints were applied in terms of altering the land shape and quality. It was possible for JOHO Architects to determine the final buildable area by first calculating the buildable slope area, and then applying specific conditions from building codes. This process inevitably resulted in the final area for architectural intervention becoming smaller than the site. In these cases, resolving parking lot circulation is key.


Luxury Lifestyle Awards awarded JOHO Architects the title Best Luxury Commercial Architecture for EL16.52 in South Korea. The award recognizes JOHO Architects as the best in class in the country following the firm’s completion of outstanding work on the newly designed café.

JOHO Architects was established by founder and principal architect Jeonghoon Lee in 2009. The firm is the name behind some of the leading architectural work in South Korea, with Lee known for his pursuit of new Korean topographical features and architectural identity based on form and façade that harmonize with the site’s context. He is a graduate of the field of B.A. Architecture and Philosophy (SungKyunKwan University, South Korea) and has further qualifications in architectural materials (Nancy School of Architecture, France) and architectural theory (Paris Lavillette School of Architecture, France).

JOHO Architects is adept at reviving traditional Korean spaces through the use of patterns and repetitive units composed of easily affordable raw materials that can be sourced locally. With respect to EL 16.52, This insightful approach to design is precisely why Lee and the JOHO Architects were awarded the title Best Luxury Commercial Architecture for EL16.52 in South Korea.

For more about JOHO Architecture, visit


About Luxury Lifestyle Awards | Luxury Lifestyle Awards is a global award selecting, recognizing, celebrating, and promoting the best luxury goods and services all over the world. The goal of the company is to connect people with the best of luxury. LLA has evaluated more than 10 000 various goods and services in 400 categories from 60 countries and analyzed the results to give you a TOP list of the best of the best in the world. Such world-renowned brands as Chanel, Dom Perignon, and Ferrari were proudly named winners. The victory brings companies status and recognition, global promotion, and exposure to an entirely new market of customers.

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