Posts Tagged ‘seoul’

Modern architecture in Seoul

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Seoul is filled with modern structures and some very finely detailed buildings. Visiting a design district, we came upon the Hermes Museum, located appropriately in the basement of the Hermes building.

At the entrance to the museum, one feels they are in a surreal forest, a la Alice in Wonderland. No actual products can be seen among the blue-tinted “trees.” At the back of the space, you can then see each tree has a void in which a product history showcase sits. The low key artistic approach of Hermes was a wonderful experience. The use of tinted glass, reflections, and excellent detailing is worth studying. It was in the past mostly in Japan that this finely detailed glazing was done. Now, Korean architects do great work within these modern buildings.

The Leetum: three new museums in Seoul

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

When I visited Seoul last spring, I stopped by a series of three new museums, one containing traditional Korean art and sculpture, another with modern experimental work, and the third a museum that engages the community to build and create unique art themselves. The Lee family (of Samsung fame) renamed the place as the “Leetum.” Located in the middle of the Seoul neighborhood that is home to Samsung’s founding family, the series of museums are embedded into the hillside next to residences.

Architects Rem Koolhaas, Mario Botta, and Jean Nouvel each designed one museum, joined with a central reception building by Botta. It is beautifully crafted architecture. The Botta museum is a beautiful collection of traditional Korean art, both pottery and paintings. The casework is magnificent, and the collection is very sensitively curated with beautiful colors often unseen in Asian museums. The gift shop has products designed by the students at SADI (Samsung Art & Design Institute).

The exterior installation of the spiders is a great organic series of pieces contrasting with the crisp architecture. You feel like you’re encountering the human-exterminating Martian vessels from the War of the Worlds as you pass the spiders on the deck next to the entrance. From there you enter the lobby designed by Mario Botta.

The Rem Koolhaas building is very raw and open (as is his style), while the Nouvel building is colder than the other work of his I’ve seen. The art matches the building design.

Look down

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Last month I gave a talk at Hong Ik University in Seoul. Prior to going to the venue I noticed that this relatively non descript campus–architecturally speaking–had a great series of paving experiments up to the design building. The materials were wood, rough granite, cut granite, hewn wood, and more.

The next time that you go somewhere look down to see if they are having a good time with paving patterns. I would say what you find may not even compare to the level of attention and detail I saw here.

My friend Mark Painter Pariani shared with me this quotation by JRR Tolkein in respect to the importance of where we walk:

“It’s a dangerous business going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off too.”

Besides what was on the ground, the arrow sculpture (pictured with me below) was the most dramatic piece in the environment.

Dominique Perrault’s EWHA Women’s University

Friday, May 7th, 2010

EWHA Women’s University in Seoul invited me to speak to their design students last month. This treat was made doubly sweet because their new student center building by Domenique Perrault was recently completed.

It’s essentially two subterranean buildings split by the stairs and ramp (the landscape above ground was left as-is). One side appeared to be  for classrooms, and the other with food services, theatre, etc.  One side has air ducts that form a canyon-like space with a fountain. This lets light into the lowest levels.

Like elsewhere in Korea, the biggest thing I enjoyed is the play with the paving materials. The ramp uses a soft edge rock, which transitions into tightly cut stone for the stairs. The upper level has softer shaped stones and seating rocks that appear like petrified wood. The variety of paving materials adds texture to the campus.

It’s a joy to see such beautifully designed modern buildings.