We Present You with Your House
As a result of the shift in our world economy, large scale architectural projects are decreasing while small scale projects are on the increase. Also, projects for private spaces, such as houses, are growing more than public spaces. In Korea, people are moving out from the monotony of their apartments, with demands for unique housing. Not only existing architects but young architects who just entered the field are actively designing houses. Various media outlets are introducing completed houses. We cannot deny the fact that interest in houses is higher than ever before. Not only the interest is increasing, but there are many exhibitions based upon houses. We can see that we are in a phase where people sell apartments and move to detached houses, more people living in one person houses, and the awareness for economic and rational houses are growing. Now it’s the time to think inversely, how the exhibition about houses can influence architects and architectural market. reported by Shim Youngkyu
House Inside the Museum
Recently, there have been various exhibitions centred on architecture. There were many exhibitions about architecture in the past, but they weren’t as many held as simultaneously as now. Among them, the following exhibitions have the ‘house’ as guiding principle, and have architects directly participating. ‘Home, Where the Heart is’ which takes place at Arko (Arts Council Korea) Art Center until the 16th of February, ‘Co-living Scenarios’ which takes place at Seoul Museum of Art (SEMA) until the 25th of January, ‘Living-cube’ which took place on Raemian Gallery until last the 30th of November, ‘Exploring the next door’ which took place in Gallery Jungmiso until the 7th of November, and the third exhibition of ‘Minimal House’ which took place on Onground held until last the 31st of October.
Not only in number but in form, the exhibitions are changing. The existing exhibitions featured mainly models, writings, and photography, but many of the recent exhibitions broke free from conventional features and came up with new ideas and plans. Looking into the purpose of these recent exhibitions can offer clues to think about the changes of methods and contexts. It can also lead to the understanding of the demands/preference, or how the perception of the audience is shifting. Finally, it can ultimately lead to the prediction of how this shift will influence the future of architects.
The manifesto, which is the message that needs to be delivered, is the most important element in an exhibition, and specific purposes should be set up to deal with this situation. If the purpose is set up, a method to deliver the message, which is proper media, tools, and devices, should be chosen. Visual effects are also important, because if the exhibition cannot the direct attentions of visitors through visual means, the audience will lose their curiosity. Looking at the purpose, method, and visual effect of an exhibition allows us to see how the ‘house inside the museum’ is communicating with the audience.
As many experts have said, the reason why it’s difficult to put together an architectural exhibition is because architecture does not represent spectacles or auras, but it’s merely used as a supplement to understand buildings that have already materialized. Often architecture is used as the ‘background’ to an exhibition. The art critic Lee Yongwoo (president, International Biennale Association) said, ‘It will lose the ritualistic value of the direction of the exhibition, which Walter Benjamin talked about, and it will be converted into a spatial composition that comes close to the architect’s narrative’. He added, ‘It will not be able to savour the media effects of the technology of the digital age, and it may enumerate itself like a construction site.’ Lee Jongkeun (professor, Kyonggi University) commented, ‘We are living in the golden age of the architectural exhibition, but it is hard to tell precisely what architectural context the exhibition wants to express’. He added, ‘It is almost impossible to imagine the experience of the actual built environment through the exhibition’. He also contributed a fundamental question: ‘Unlike exhibitions in other genres, architectural exhibitions should allow the audience to read and imagine the value, meaning, and experience of architecture.’ So, looking at the recent exhibitions should not only look at the completeness of the exhibition or exhibits of individuals, but should consider how the exhibition presents houses and influences the perception of the audience.
The first floor has a concept of ‘making the museum into a house’, and the space is divided into entrance, living room, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, small room, and the attic. The names of the actual rooms are not written, but they are divided according to the meaning, symbolism, and memory of that particular space.
Visual Effects: Concern about the Exhibition Method
Last year, Gallery Jungmiso at Dongsung-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul hosted Houshow Season 2 ‘Exploring the Next Door’. The purpose of the exhibition was clear. The coordinator Lee Kiok (principal, Phillip Architects) said, ‘This is an invitation from young architects to future buildings owners’. The exhibition featured various works from seven young architects, helping and encouraging the young architects who just started in the field, helping them to seek for a building owner. As much as the thoughts about the houses of each of the participating architects were various, the way they were expressed was just as numerous. Some works were too conceptual and did not even show the building directly, making it difficult to understand. The conversation with the architectural programme has been cancelled, because the participation of the general public was less than expected. If it was going to be a presentation by young architects to the general public, it should have included elements that would draw attention of the public, and also should have been promoted more to the public, not only to people in the architectural field. On the other hand, ‘Home Where the Heart Is’ showed a marked difference in selecting a clear purpose and method. Planner Lee June (director, Glint Ltd.) talked about the purpose of this exhibition, ‘It is to ask if your house is joyful, and to look around and seek for an alternative near us’. He added, ‘I wanted to create a bond of sympathy of the essential meaning of the house with the audience’. Cha Seungjoo (curator) said, ‘We approached the house humanistically and sociologically with experts from various fields, attempting to create a point of contact with many people’. To serve its purpose, the exhibition is divided into three galleries; ‘Home I lived’, ‘Home I live’, and ‘Home I dream’. Kim Bumsang (president, Glint Ltd.) said, “We present the ‘familiar house’ in Gallery 1, show the reality of social problems in Gallery 2, and show video clips, the work of the architects, and research about the precious connections to be made with houses in gallery 3’. The first floor has a concept of ‘making the museum into a house’, and the space is divided into entrance, living room, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, small room, and the attic. The names of the actual rooms are not written, but they are divided according to the meaning, symbolism, and memory of that particular space. It also features works and installation that can arouse the memory of that space, and it is designed so that one can think about the function of the house. Gallery 2 features graphic co-ordinates on the floor, which let us see the value of the house as an asset, through detailed statistics and case studies. One would enter through a different entrance according to their current income, select which form of house one can buy or rent according to the economic capacity of the family, and check the coordinates to see what part of Seoul one can live in. This represents an awareness of reality, which is a procedure to obtain an alternative. Participating artist Lee Chihoon (principal, Society Of Architecture) said, ‘In this exhibition, one can choose to feel, observe, and study, according to their needs’.
Message: What Is It Saying?
Exhibition ‘Co-living Scenarios’ feature ‘shared spaces’. There are nine scenarios, which experiments with the possibility of a life lived together, which has a clear goal of ‘suggestion and alternatives’. This purpose was driven from the recent change of people’s awareness of the house and social changes. According to National Statistical Office (NSO), Korea’s one person house ratio was 23.9%. In five years, in 2020, it is estimated to be 29.6%, which is the most common form of housing. It is estimated to reach 37% in 2050, which means that one out of four houses will be one person homes. According to this kind of social change, new shared houses will be born, and architects will be able suggest alternatives to how people can live together. Architects should show the picture that can arouse the curiosity of the general public and show creativity and experiments to the experts, because this exhibition can allow continuing more experiments. However, the method of the exhibition is not vastly different from that of existing exhibitions. Current states and problems are shown by the data lounge in the entrance. Unlike its explanation ‘the infographic, which represents the dwelling culture and changes in each era, and the books that were used in the research is provided to help understand the exhibition’, putting several books and two infographics which were not able to achieve this goal.
The methods that each architect chose are also difficult to understand. Architecture is based on research, so exhibiting architecture must also be carefully designed and planned. The idea of creating a shared space through horizontally connecting abandoned rooftops is not fresh, and the concept of the Woogongzip Real Estate Agency is difficult to understand. QJK, which is a scenario about an imaginary public space, and Pitajip Documentary, which shows the process of building a house with simple materials, do not suit the purpose of ‘suggesting an alternative’. 3rd SCAPE is not even recognizable as a piece of work. It seems like the message of the exhibition is not delivered together, but that they are all individually separated. The exhibition ‘Home, Where the Heart Is’, lacks the capability to communicate with its audience in Gallery 3, where the panels and books are just simply placed, and does not draw attention.
‘The Republic of Apartments’, which took place in the Seoul Museum of History last March, received a good critical response. The whole 111m2 size unit of Seocho-Samho Apt, which was built in 1978 and has been planned for demolition, was displayed in the exhibition hall. This apartment unit, which people started to live from year 1981, featured the radiator and the built-in cupboard which was installed since then. The typical apartment lives of the 1980s were reproduced by placing all the furniture and interior materials that were used back then. It provided an opportunity to rethink about the apartments and its lifestyle, which has become so familiar to us. This method, which allows the audience to experience directly the space and to have an opportunity to organize their thoughts, is very effective.
Gallery 2 features graphic co-ordinates on the floor, which let us see the value of the house as an asset, through detailed
statistics and case studies.
Having a Clear Purpose and Choosing the Method
Some exhibitions show bold themes and forms. The exhibition ‘Minimal House’ first started with October of 2013, and continued into April and November of 2014. It’s scheduled to have exhibitions for three more years ahead, presenting the work of 30 architects in total with 3 each in 10 separate exhibitions. Chung Younghan (principal, Studio Archiholic) talked about the purpose of the exhibition, ‘It is to give various values to the standardized homes, such as apartments or officetels’. He added, ‘The thoughts of the general public will not change at once, but we planned this exhibition to be about new forms of housings in order to spread the new perspective towards houses’. He talks about specific directions, ‘It is to show the house that we live and to let the audience feel and think about the scale of the space’. The concept ‘minimum’ not only represents the expense or physical size, but also means unknown architects or leftover space that is alienated.
Three exhibitions each have the subtitle ‘Minimum space’, ‘Meeting the architect’, and ‘Territory of idleness’. It was aimed at the general public as the audience and chose an accessible location. It aimed not to be a one-time event but to be an ‘exhibition for the sake of an exhibition’, not receiving any support or contributions from any foundations, showing the absolute ‘minimum’. It also chose cheap materials to build models and put minimum effort into the visuals. It is attempts to show the evolution of each exhibition throughout a five year period.
Some exhibitions are pursuing practicality instead of big arguments or abstruse contents. ‘New life, Living Cube’ has the subtitle ‘an exhibition of unique small scale houses suggested by architects’. HS HOUSE is an agency that connects architects to building owners and constructors. They launched a brand named Living Cube and hosted ‘6×6 House contest exhibit’. They brought the works suggested from this project. Kim Joowon (principle, HS HOUSE) remarked that ‘There are more than 50,000 houses built every year, with 12,000 detached houses. Among them, architects participate on only 4–5% of them’. Their goal is to brand the module house Living Cube, and to look for opportunities and connection points for architects to contribute in the booming small scale house market. Kim said ‘Many channels have to be created in order to increase the point of contact with the general public’. He added, ‘Open house, tour programmes, competition exhibits, and these kind of exhibitions can be a good alternative to promote good small scale houses’. An apartment model house was chosen as the venue, and simple panels and housing models were matched in order to avoid the confusion of the audience. People can receive counseling for design on site, and the audience can picture specific spaces freely by having direct access to the models.
The various recent exhibitions can enhance the interest for housing to the public, but can they spoil the essence of the house, because there are now too many shows? Chung Younghan said, ‘The architects are too eager to show something quickly’, and added that ‘They must approach prudently, on their own positions’.
Architects cannot change the standardized housing problem, because the thoughts of the building owners have to change. So, it cannot change immediately, but it needs time. If the exhibitions on houses have to deliver a message, it is not important to just show a physical exhibit with built spaces, but should provide clues to the building owners that will bring a better understanding of spaces and activities, resulting in a paradigm shift for the thoughts about houses. Kim Bumsang said, ‘I do not like insincere exhibitions or exhibitions with too much information. I prefer a kind exhibition’. He added, ‘There has to be a structure for a margin, where one can think and feel. It has to be standardized according to the real experience of the audience’.
The architectural curator Kim Heejung said, ‘The environmental and physical limits for an architectural exhibition will be an opportunity to consider how architecture itself is exhibited’. She added, ‘It shows promise, to bring cooperation with other fields, and the possibility to bring flexibility to the current architectural culture, where criticizing the work of an architect is considered a taboo’. In the future, we should focus on making the role of exhibitions, which are to read the new stream of architecture and reconstitute it. Up until now, if the ‘house’ itself was the issue, now it’s the time to throw questions about how, what, and why the houses should be presented. To have strong contents, there should be more methodical and institutional considerations about research and the labour force. Above all, housing exhibitions should not be a one-sided conveyance about architecture, but a place for communication, which would lead to social and cultural discussions.