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Bongha Village Graveyard, South Korea

Wednesday 15 Aug 2012

The dominant minority

Bongha Village Graveyard by IROJE architects & planners in South Korea
All images courtesy of IROJE 
Bongha Village Graveyard by IROJE architects & planners in South Korea Bongha Village Graveyard by IROJE architects & planners in South Korea Bongha Village Graveyard by IROJE architects & planners in South Korea
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South Korean architect Seung Hyo-Sang presents symbolic display for Venice 

The International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia is architecture’s largest international celebration, this year directed by David Chipperfield and open from 29 August to 25 November 2012. This year, Seung Hyo-Sang, president of the IROJE is the only Korean architect invited to exhibit at the event.

Hesitant to attend, he recently commented: “I thought the European architecture world doesn’t respect Asian architecture. After hesitating, I decided to go and discuss Asian architectural values that aren’t found in Western architecture.” Seung is only the third Korean architect to feature in the exhibition (now in its 13th year) and the only one to get invited twice. Of the 64 respected architects invited to attend, only a handful are from Asia.

The name of this year’s Biennale is Common Ground and the theme will examine the common elements nations have in architecture. Seung (who was commissioner of the Korean pavilion in 2008) is exhibiting, amongst 9 residential projects he designed, a project named 'Bonghwa Village Graveyard', the burial ground of late President Roh Moo-hyun. Traditional Korean architecture is renowned for attempting to connect the inside and outside of its buildings by leaving part of the structure empty. In Bonghwa Village, the graveyard is wide but the grave in the centre is diminutive.

Seung details: “Bongha Village Graveyard is a ‘home for a dead person,’ but has some things in common with the home of a living person. I selected it as the work in an attempt at ‘construction of emptiness,’ which we have inherited from Korean traditional architecture and I have attempted in modern architecture.”

Seung introduces a key theme in his work; East vs. West. He will attempt to explain these differences between Western and Eastern architecture by comparing 'Gyeongju’s Dongnakdang Hall', in Yi Eon-jeok’s home - built in 1516 and a classic piece of Korean architecture - and the Villa Rotonda which is a Western example of classic Renaissance architecture.

He said of his exhibition choices: “The Dongnakdang Hall is a solitary house that takes delight in its being left alone, while harmonising with the surroundings. The Villa Rotonda is a house that dominates its surroundings alone. Modern architecture is now stuck on the Villa Rotonda, a symbol of Western architecture. I think it’s time to take a look back at the ethical architecture pursued by the Dongnakdang Hall.”

Directly challenging the 'Western dominance' in world architecture, Seung draws attention to the concerning fact that Asia is the minority invited to participate in this year’s International Architecture Exhibition. There is a distinct lack of recognition given to Asian architecture in La Biennale di Venezia this year, and his work reaffirms the Eastern status as architecturally influential and innovative. His incorporation of a home for a dead person in to his residentially orientated projects puts an interesting spin on the exhibition brief, creating a clear identity for Korea in this year’s exhibition.

Samantha Morley

Key Facts

Status Complete
Value Undisclosed(m€)
IROJE architects & planners

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