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Meet The Architect Who Helped Design A Venue In This Year's Winter Olympics In South Korea

There is a certain level of pride that overcomes Jim Scheidel when he turns on the television and catches this year’s Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Scheidel, board chairman for Cuningham Group Architecture, and his team helped design the Alpensia Resort, which serves as the main Olympic venuethe media headquarters of the International Broadcast Center and NBC and the host venue of Olympic sports such as ski jumping, the biathlon and cross-country skiing. 

Cuningham Group Architecture Chairman of the Board Jim Scheidel was one of the lead architects that built a venue being used in the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
Cuningham Group Architecture Chairman of the Board Jim Scheidel

About a two-and-a-half-hour drive northeast of Seoul in the Gangwon-do province of Pyeongchang surrounded by mountains, the Alpensia Resort covers 4.9 square kilometers.

Culver City-based Cuningham Group Architecture served as the master planner and the concept architect.

“I remember when it was just farmland and potato fields,” Scheidel said. “Seeing how it is now and bringing that vision into a reality is very exciting for us.”

Cuningham Group Architecture began developing the site in 2005. It was the firm's first job in Korea, Scheidel said. 

Cuningham Group Architecture is better known for its thematic design and architecture along with works at Disneyland, Universal Studios and Warner Brothers.

Representatives from South Korea approached the group in the early 2000s because they were looking for a company with fresh ideas in entertainment architecture and with a thematic background, Scheidel said.

“They wanted an all-year-round resort to benefit the chances of South Korea winning an Olympic bid,” Scheidel said, adding that South Korea had not hosted an Olympics since 1988.

Cuningham Group Architecture helped design the Alpensia Ski Resort in Pyeongchang, which is being used as a venue for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.
Alpensia Ski Resort in Daegwallyeong-myeon in Pyeongchang

Since the site was nestled in mountains and valleys, Cuningham Group Architecture was inspired to create a European-style Alps design.  

“We wanted to create this backstory of nature and use the mountain environment around us,” he said. 

The $1.5B resort features hotels, an indoor water park, a roller coaster, retail, restaurants, a performance hall, meeting and conference space and a golf course.

The resort opened in 2009. When South Korea presented its bid to host a Winter Olympics, Alpensia Resort was a focal point of the presentation, according to several news outlets.

In 2011, the International Olympic Committee awarded South Korea the 2018 Winter Olympics. 

“Being part of the process was great for us,” Scheidel said. “They hadn’t hosted the Olympics in a long time and now they had this premier center to showcase to the world.”

“For us, this was a team effort,” he said. “What it’s all about is watching families get off an attraction, seeing them hold hands, enjoy each other and for a moment have this suspension of disbelief that they are living in a different world.”