21st Century Architecture: A Holistic Attitude
Yoon Seungjoong (honorary president, Wondoshi Architects Group)
Yoon Seungjoong is honorary president at the Wondoshi Architects Group and the Korean Institute of Architects. He was born in Seoul in 1937, and graduated from Seoul High School and the Department of Architecture and Architectural Engineering of Seoul National University. He worked as a Planning Director at the Kim Swoo Geun Architecture Research Institute and as the Urban Planning Department Head at the Korea Engineering Consultants Corporation, and founded the Wondoshi Architects Research Institute in 1970. From 1973 onwards, he worked under a partnership system with Byun Yong, and has designed numerous prize-winning projects, such as the Hanil Bank Headquarters, Jeil Bank Headquarters, Sungkyunkwan University Suwon Campus, Pohang Steelers Central Research Institute, Korea Research Institute for Human Settlements, Chosun Ilbo Office, Supreme Court of Korea, and others.
The Meaning of Contemporary Architecture in Korea written by Yoon Seungjoong,「SPACE」200th issue
To. SPACE Magazine editorial team
As someone who helped SPACE from the sidelines, temporarily when it was being founded in November 1966, I was a dedicated reader until my retirement from my previous position, and for this reason I have a special affection for SPACE.
At the time of founding, when Korean society barely perceived architecture as culture, SPACE assumed the role as a pioneer in connecting architecture with the urban city. By undergoing several transformations adapting to the changing times, it has continued on its mission for an extended period of 50 years. SPACE has continued to pursue both the goal of discovering Korea’s cultural identity via the arts by integrating various artistic realms such as fine arts, music, theatre, dance, and others along with its initial purpose as a professional magazine on architecture and urbanism, as well as the aim of developing an experimental culture and a spirit of creativity in the arts. Until recently, it has also adopted English as a medium of communication with the will and the intention of extending the global reach of Korean arts and architecture and to secure its position internationally.
Approximately a hundred years ago, in the early 20th century, the great individuals of early modernism proposed ideas that can be grouped under functionalism, universalism, purism, ideal city, order, trust in scientific technology, envisaging a new future not yet experienced, a new architecture, a new city, a new future of human living. In this they introduced revolutionary innovations to architecture and society, and revealed the influence of architecture. However, this globalized concept of modernity, based upon contemporary scientific civilization, also risks overwriting indigenous and cultural identities, worsening our disconnection from history and bringing about a era of conformity. These early masters, who welcomed a new era in architectural design, gradually shifted to the background, and in the latter half of 20th century, modernism was severely criticized and thrown into doubt, from its core principles to its commitments to social revolution via architectural and urban ideals. It was agreed that abstract and universal methods that exclude regional unique aspects could no longer be applied to our present cultural environment.
As a criticism of determinism and harsh reductionism, based on the atomistic motivations of early modernism, the new direction of architecture assumed a direction towards a more inclusive attitude that emphasized memory and stimulation, a pluralistic interpretability of meaning within metaphors that are already specifically determined, an expansion of the concept of architecture to include what is local, traditional, popular, and even commercial, through its inclinations towards mannerism and its disposition to read architecture as a means of communication. The architects who had studied under this way of thinking have expressed themselves in these various forms: pop art that opposes modernity, op-artistic architecture, high-tech architecture with a more developed machine aesthetic, ecological architecture, and this variety of architecture has led the latter half of 20th century from postmodernism, late modernism, and to deconstructionism. A hundred years after the birth of modernism, in the early 20th century, humanity is now facing a new revolutionary era.
I wonder how architecture and the role of architects will change in early 21st century when it is described as the era of fourth industrial revolution, characterised by artificial intelligence, object recognition, big data, and so on. Late industrial society brought about material prosperity, and high technology including digital technology has provided architects with more new materials and new methods, and has given them the opportunities and means to expand new kinds of possibilities and realms in their architectural designs. There is greater potential to manifest the imaginative objectives more freely, enabled by the powerful and evolved computer programmes.
However, ubiquitous projects that try to provide ‘an interface as natural as breathing, and an environment that manages one’s daily life via countless computers’ include the architectural environment as well, and thus suggest that a significant portion of architecture will need to be in negotiation with high technology. Due to the rise of high technology and its integration with commercialism, the possibility that a large part of architecture will be commercialized and branded - and due to the integration and overlapping of various genres occurring in the digital era, the identities, roles, and boundaries of architecture will become increasingly indefinite.
This means that the influence of architecture and the architect, which was not only the tool that made it possible to live one’s daily life - authority over order and meaning in the world, but also those elements that belong among the high arts - will now be greatly tested. As faced by the pioneers of the early 20th century, architecture is probably being asked to accept the demands of this changing era proactively and to propose a new architecture of tomorrow driven by an even greater ethical responsibility and adopting a new perspective that will transcend logic within the realm of autonomy.
If twentieth-century architecture began with the will to improve the quality of life by adopting scientific technology, machines, and industry to create a new architecture, I believe that in a hundred years from now the architecture of today should adopt a ‘holistic attitude’. This would be instead of making a partial promise to create a new and sustainable future and a new realm for architecture and the architects.
As SPACE now looks to its 700th issue, its mission is to act as a companion to this architectural endeavour and to its architects that are stepping out into a new era and walking a new road, as well as an advisor that will guide them in the right direction. In this situation, when communication is no longer bounded by time due to all-time accessible webzines and social networks, the role of analogue and printed journals such as SPACE will continue to be appreciated for their worth, due to the provision of accurate and well-organised archival functions, the coherent and balanced discussion of problems, and the ability to provide visual pleasure with wide panels. In this world where everything is moving so fast, slow service remains to be desired.
I would like to express my encouragement and my high expectations of all the production team members at SPACE as they look forward to their 700th issue.