Jun 19, 2014

highlights the themes behind the korean pavilion

at the 2014 venice architecture biennale, designboom took a closer look at the golden lion-winning korean pavilion, entitled ‘crow’s eye view: the korean peninsula’. at the event, the project’s commissioner and curator minsuk cho offered us a tour of the installation, highlighting some of the subtle nuances that make up the design. articulated in response to four primary themes – ‘reconstructing life’, ‘monumental state’, ‘borders’, and ‘utopian tours’ – the exhibition has been praised by the jury for presenting a rich body of knowledge within a highly charged political landscape.


the project uses a range of representation methods that encourage the public to engage with korea’s polarized history, with models, photographs, and digital media filling the pavilion. work produced by architects, urbanists, poets, writers, artists, photographers, film-makers, curators and collectors offer a diverse range of viewpoints, referencing the planned and informal development of the divided countries and revealing the wide range of architectural interventions that have shaped the lives of the population.

minsuk-cho-highlights-the-themes-behind-the-korean-pavilion-in-venice-designboom-100visitors within the space 
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korean pavilion venice architecture biennale minsuk cho designbooma large model runs through the center of the pavilion
image © designboom


the pavilion is influenced by a poem from korean architect-tunred-poet yi sang and focuses on the divided state of the korean peninsula after the second world war. rather than reproducing cliches and prejudices that obscure perceptions of the region, the display presents the architecture of north and south korea as a mechanism for generating alternative narratives that are capable of addressing both the everyday and the monumental.

korean pavilion venice architecture biennale minsuk cho designboomphotographs line the walls of the pavilion
image © designboom


the first theme, ‘reconstructing life’, looks at the role of architecture in rebuilding communities. in the wake of the korean war, where many north korean cities were destroyed by bombing, the idea of building housing and monuments constituted a founding myth for the new socialist nation. conversely, the historical landscape of seoul in the south was destroyed by bulldozers transforming the city into a hybrid metropolitan urban landscape. this topic focuses on the common and divergent ways that the reconstructed cities have functioned as mechanisms of both memory and desire.

korean pavilion venice architecture biennale minsuk cho designboomthe project uses a range of representation methods that encourage public engagement
image © designboom


the next part of the installation examines the ‘monumental state’ – again through the dual lenses of pyongyang and seoul. while north korea is perhaps unique in terms of its deep engagement with its political leader with regard to the definition of architecture, south korea has moved on a different trajectory. despite their differences, the exhibition considers reoccurring and similar themes that explain visions of the monument.

korean pavilion venice architecture biennale minsuk cho designboomcarefully crafted models reference the planned and informal development of the divided countries
image © designboom


the borders between north and south korea comprise some of the most militarized, mediated and politically charged boundaries in the world. the ‘borders’ exhibition looks in more detail at the physical, conceptual and emotional boundaries that separate and link the two koreas. in light of ecological and historical analysis, the DMZ (korean demilitarized zone) is presented as a potential space of imagination and reconciliation.

korean pavilion venice architecture biennale minsuk cho designboommodel of ‘alborz housing project’ 1976, by kim swoo geun
image © designboom


‘utopian tours’, the final area of the installation, sees a selection presented by nick bonner, the founder of koryo group – a beijing-based company that specializes in travel, film and cultural production in north korea. the images, comprised of linocuts, ink paintings and posters, illustrate the significance of architecture in the construction of a self-proclaimed ‘utopian society’.
see here for designboom’s previous coverage of the korean pavilion, with a more detailed look at some of the featured imagery.

korean pavilion venice architecture biennale minsuk cho designboomphotographs are used extensively to examine the divided state of the two koreas 
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korean pavilion venice architecture biennale minsuk cho designboomimage © designboom

korean pavilion venice architecture biennale minsuk cho designboomthe images illustrate the significance of architecture in the construction of a self-proclaimed ‘utopian society’
image © designboom


korean pavilion venice architecture biennale minsuk cho designboomimagery from ‘a day of an architect’ by a north korean artist 
image © designboom


korean pavilion venice architecture biennale minsuk cho designbooma wealth of visual imagery is presented to visitors 
image © designboom



crow’s eye view: the korean peninsula

commissioner/curator: minsuk cho
curators: hyungmin pai, changmo ahn
deputy curator: jihoi lee
featuring: sekwon ahn, alessandro belgiojoso, nick bonner (featuring mansudae art studio and anonymous artists and architects of north korea), marc brossa, onejoon che, charlie crane, maxime delvaux, min cho jun, ik-joong kang, karolis kazlauskas & plt planning and architecture ltd., dongsei kim, hanyong kim, kichan kim, seok chul kim & franco mancuso, kim swoo geun, young june lee, chris marker, philipp meuser, hoon moon, motoelastico, osamu murai, peter noever (featuring the north korean architects exhibited in flowers for kim il sung, MAK, 2010), kyong park (featuring nam june paik and the artists of the project dmz, storefront for art and architecture, 1988), james powderly, kyungsub shin, hyun-suk seo (featuring kim jong hui et al.), yehre suh, yi sang, dongwoo yim

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