Expansion & Conflict,
The 13th Docomomo International Conference Seoul
The Docomomo International Conference was held from the 19th to 29th of September in Seoul. The long awaited event finally took place, ten years after Korea joined the Docomomo in 2004. The fact that this is the first Docomomo conference to be held in Asia means that the centre of discussion on the preservation and application of sites of modern cultural heritage is shifting from Europe and America to Asia. It was also an opportunity not only for people in the architectural field but also for ordinary citizens to learn about and
participate in the discussion concerning modern architectural heritage. This was held alongside events such as an international student workshop, a Korean modern architecture site tour, and the exhibition at the National Museum of Contemporary Art. SPACE will look in depth at the meaning of Docomomo Korea (chairman Kim Taewoo) as the host city, and also the changes to the domestic and international architectural field as a consequence of the event.
reported by Park Gyehyun | photography by Yoon Joonhwan (unless otherwise indicated)
materials provided by Docomomo Korea
Expansion 1: Thinking about Modern Architecture in Asia
Docomomo International Conferences, which is hosted by different cities every two years, reflects the character of the hosting city. Docomomo Helsinki 2012 was held under the theme ‘The Survival of the Modern: From Coffee Cup to General Plan’, covering modern design beyond architecture, to include interior design, furniture design and tool design. Docomomo Mexico City 2010 had the theme ‘Living in the Urban Modernity’, looking at the life in Mexico City, which was built under modern concepts. Viewed from this perspective, the theme for Seoul 2014, which is ‘Expansion & Conflict,’ can be considered as the main keyword for modern Asian architecture. This theme is a comprehensive expression of the history and growth of modern Asian architecture, still deemed a mystery for Westerners. This event has expanded the discussion of modern architecture, which was only limited to Europe and America to Asia, also questioning the theories which are based on the Western world.
A platform to support this discussion was also prepared. In the section of the International Conference, ‘Asian Modernity’ was composed as one of the categories of discussion. The existing categories include education and theory, preservation and (re)use, city and the landscape, and technology. Presentations and discussions took place about the growth and development of cities and architecture in Seoul, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Istanbul, places not well known before. Also, a special opportunity to hold a session just about Korean architects was given. Korean architects Kim Jungsoo, Kim Swoo Geun, Kim Chung Up, and Nah Sangjin were introduced by Kim Sungwoo (president, N.E.E.D architects), Jeong Inha (professor, Hanyang University), Yi Euisung (executive, Docomomo International Committee), and Choon Choi (professor, Seoul National University) during session 14 on the 26th. Yi Euisung asserted most particularly aided by his thesis titled ‘Roof and the Land: Kim Chung Up and Le Corbusier,’ which considers whether the architectural language of Kim Chung Up was formed while he worked in the office of Le Corbusier or by the form and space of the traditional Korean architecture. He questioned the common notion that modern Korean architecture came from the language of a European and American architecture. He raised much sympathy through the comparison of the form and line of the roof in the French Embassy to the image of the lines in the columns and eaves of the Korean traditional architecture. During the Q&A session, he received positive comments such as ‘This thesis contains a new perspective’ and ‘We would like to see these projects in person’.
The Conference took place over three days with 21 sessions, among which six sessions were dedicated to Asian modernity. Session 17, which took place on the 27th, was conducted by Seo Myungsu, Kim Jonghun, Lee Yeonkyung, and Hideo Tomita, who opened with a discussion about modernism in Korea and Seoul during the Japanese colonial period. Session 11, which took place on the 26th, featured Sangeeta Bagga talking about the expansion and conflict found in Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh with the title ‘The meaning of Chandigarh: An example of Asian modernity.’ These arguments all revealed that Asian modernism is different from the general history of modern architecture in the Western world.
The workshop was held on the 19th to the 23rd, under the theme ‘Sewoon Arcade.’ From top, a scene of the field trip, and a workshop.
Expansion 2: The Need for International Cooperation and Exchange
The workshop was held on the 19th to the 23rd, under the theme ‘Sewoon Arcade.’ Each team was comprised of six students from Korea, Japan, Australia, Germany, and Egypt, who made up a team and worked under a Korean architect and a tutor in the office of a Korean architect. Lee Jiyoung, a participating student said, ‘It is usually hard to find opportunities to work with foreign students’. The programme was seen as a good chance to make up the educational curriculum in architecture, which is falling behind the architecture market, by much more active international exchange.
Students made projects through this new format. Team 7 made a video clip of the interview of a Sewoon Arcade merchant as their final project. What made this project possible is that the team included students who could conduct Korean interviews, and another who could edit video. Besides the traditional plans and models, new forms like this project such as a documentary and edited images using antique maps were presented. This is where the advantage of international cooperation and exchange was revealed. Ana Tostoes (Chair, Docomomo International) explained that ‘The workshop was the result of an energy to gather work that dealt with the ideas of students from different parts of the world’. She added, ‘It was an opportunity where new and interesting ideas were presented, rebuilding Sewoon Arcade as a timeless structure’.
The preservation and application of Sewoon Arcade is a big task for the city of Seoul. There have been suggestions about tearing down or forming a park, but there hasn’t been much progress due to the countercharge of the merchants and the Cultural Heritage Administration. New proposals have arisen to insert a pedestrian walk road. Park Mincheol (vice chairman, Docomomo Korea) said, ‘We wanted to talk about a new opportunity about looking at this mega structure through this workshop’. In reality, many people in Korea thinks of the mega structure as blocking and crossing the city, and that the building and its businesses are lifeless. However, many students from all over the world has visited and paid attention to the lives of the merchants through the workshop. In the domestic competition, the project ‘time organism,’ which looks at Sewoon Arcade as an organism and connects the buildings with the streets of Euljiro, was selected as the winner. Ideas that came from international cooperation and cross-generational discussions may have an impact on domestic policies and city development, suggesting a new direction.
Expansion 3: Aiming for an Expansion of Architectural Culture
Docomomo Korea co-hosted an exhibition ‘Rebirth of Place: Expansion & Conflict of the Korean Modern Architecture’ with the National Museum of Modern Contemporary Art(MMCA), along with the international conference. The opening ceremony was an opportunity for Docomomo members to come and see over 2,000 pieces of archives from 20 modern Korean architecture projects. However, the most important effect has been that the the local population can also come and see the displays of major works of modern Korean architecture, which has been dismantled or forgotten in most cases, through various mediums including photographs, movies, models, and plans.
The exhibition is organized into five sub-categories. The first and second sub-categories are buildings that are extinct, such as Jeju National University and the former National Museum of Korea, and buildings that are maintaining the exterior façade to preserve the streetscape such as Dong-A Daily News building, former Seoul Station, and the Supreme Court. The old original photos of these buildings are provided by the City History Compilation Committee of Seoul, allowing the younger generations to see the harmony of the building and the old city. The video clip about the renovation progress of the Space Group Building shows one of the most passionate topics of Korean contemporary architecture. The third sub-category consisted of renovation examples such as Seoul Country Clubhouse, Kkummaru at Seoul Children’s Grand Park, and Kimchungup Museum. The fourth sub-category deals with renovated residential projects of notable figures, showing shifts of power through buildings. The last sub-category includes the Sewoon Arcade, the theme for the workshop; showing the Korean architecture of today, which is forming its own city and architectural aesthetics through mega structures and high-rise buildings.
In the same period, MMCA Gwacheon hosted an exhibition ‘The Harmony between Technology and Art: Architect Kimm Jongsoung.’ This is the third exhibition of the architecture series, following the exhibition of Chung Guyon and Itami Jun. This shows that architecture exhibitions have settled into an independent genre domestically with the growth of interest about modern architecture. If the first exhibition intended to show as much as possible, the second intended to show what and how (SPACE, March issue, Imagineer section) This third exhibition considered what and how the audience will feel about the subject. The interior photograph of the building, which has a similar scale to the real size, fills up the walls of the exhibition hall and lets the audience experience the space as if they are visiting the actual building. Also, a structural model of the ‘Takenaka space truss,’ which was introduced in the National Weight Lifting Stadium of Korea, lets the audience feel the character of the architect, who emphasized the technological side of architecture. This will be an opportunity to feel architecture in the context of art and find the beauty and the social issue inside it. In the past, architecture has been judged only by its physical value. Kimm Jongsoung said, ‘Modern Korean architecture is now ruminating modernism, and has entered the age of reclaiming’. He also said, ‘The potential for new generation architects, who have studied overseas and also have experience within society, is tremendous. An environment that can contain new social issues should be prepared for them’. In this aspect, architectural exhibitions will promote the understanding of preservation of modern architecture projects, along with fostering building owners with a greater insight.
Kimm Jongsoung (chairman of the organizing committee, Docomomo Korea) at the keynote speech of the Conference on the 25th of November.
Expansion within Conflict: The Announcement of the Eindhoven-Seoul Statement 2014
Docomomo Korea, with no experience of hosting an international event, showed some weakness in its operations. In spite of that, one good conclusion to be drawn from this conference is that the Eindhoven Statement, which was made in 1988 with the founding of Docomomo International, has been modified through this event. One article has been added to the existing 6 artides, among which three were modified. ‘3. Promote the conservation and (re)use of buildings and sites of the Modern Movement,’ is the new article. The word ‘(re)use’ is added to article 5 and 6, and the word ‘sustainable’ was added to article 7. The issue of (re)use will be discussed in detail in the Lisbon 2016 conference as its theme.
1. Bring the significance of the architecture of the Modern Movement to the attention of the public, the authorities, the professionals and the educational community.
2. Identify and promote the surveying of the works of the Modern Movement.
3. Promote the conservation and (re)use of buildings and sites of the Modern Movement.
4. Oppose destruction and disfigurement of significant works.
5. Foster and disseminate the development of appro-priate techniques and methods of conservation and adaptive (re)use.
6. Attract funding for documentation conservation and (re)use
7. Explore and develop new ideas for the future of a sustainable built environment based on the past experiences of the Modern Movement.
The fact that many Asian countries have now asked to become a member of Docomomo is also noteworthy. Kuwait, Taiwan, and Thailand became new members, and Egypt, Hong Kong, and Macao also confirmed their intention to join Docomomo. Starting with the Seoul conference, many Asian countries will join the discussion of Docomomo. Kim Taewoo (Chairman, Docomomo Korea) remarked ‘We decided to form an architectural community centered in Korea. Japan, China, Hong Kong and Macao has confirmed, and we will continue to confirm with others’. Just like how modern architecture has collided with the traditional architectural culture and the city, there might be problems caused by hosting an international event. However, it is more than that; the significance of this event is that it has lead the participation of Asian countries, informed about the reality of modern Asian architecture, and was an opportunity to strengthen the domestic architectural culture through publications and exhibitions.
Docomomo Korea co-hosted the exhibition ‘Rebirth of Place: Expansion & Conflict of the Korean Modern Architecture’ with the National Museum of Modern Contemporary Art, in lieu with the international conference.
The members of Docomomo had a chance to see and understand Korean architecture by the Doco Tours held on the 24th, 28th and 29th.