USC Asia Architecture & Urbanism Study Abroad Program

The Seoul in Kahn

A building of stark difference from its surroundings arises into your viewing plane.  There seems to be no entrance, but upon further inspection you realize its hiding behind dense shrubs.  You cross through a threshold to the primary circulation space.  In this interstitial space the great outdoors lie just outside your view while the main body of the building rises on the opposite side.  Stairs are presented, leading you to a seemingly ambiguous destination.  As you travel upward, you reach a platform that allows you a reprieve to investigate this mysterious vertical space.  You can see down onto the underground level from these circulation platforms.  The subterranean patio in your view includes personal effects of the office worker it services.  Directly across from where you’re standing there is a small office space removed from the programmatic body of the building.  The large window of that office space allows you a glimpse of the happenings of the floors you are not yet a part of.  While walking to your destination, you drag your hand along the cool concrete walls that were so well formed.  Smooth perfect geometries, exacting edges, crafted ties.  The concrete and darkness make for a feel of safety, permanence, and a faint essence of the sea.  Light cuts perfectly through the space to illuminate just what you want to see as it is meant to be seen.

What am I describing?

In another instance, you find yourself walking through a manmade canyon.  This space is vast and weighty.  While walking through this densely ephemeral space, your reflection distorts as you past the varying angles of glass.  A view is slowly presented to you.  It is perfectly framed by the buildings that make this space.  Suddenly, upon seeing this view, you realize the connection this view has to the building surrounding you and why this view was chosen and that it could be no other view.

What am I describing?

Are these imaginary spaces?  Certainly not.  Those who have been to the Salk Institute by Louis Kahn can identify with these experiential descriptions.  Yet so could those who have been to The Lock Museum  and Ehwa University in Seoul.  The first description is crafted to simultaneously describe the entry sequence to one of the laboratory towers at the Salk Institute as well as the entry sequence to the Lock Museum in Seoul by Seung HyoSang.  The second description is meant to describe the primary community spaces at both the Salk Institute and Ehwa University’s Student Center by Dominique Perrault.

South Korea is an extremely unexpected place to suddenly appreciate Kahn’s vast impact on architecture.  I don’t think any architect can doubt that the prolific work of Louis Kahn has resonated through the architecture field and will continue to do so for years to come.


Filed under: Architecture, Korea

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AAU FALL 2013:

University of Southern California
School of Architecture
Asia Architecture and Urbanism
Study Abroad Program

Andrew Liang
Bu Bing
Steven Chen
Yo-Ichiro Hakomori
Andrew Liang
Yuyang Liu
Neville Mars
Academic Contributors:
Thomas Chow, SURV
Bert de Muynck, Movingcities.org
Manying Hu, SZGDADRI, ITDP, Guangzhou
Clare Jacobson, Design Writer, Editor, Curator
Laurence Liauw, SPADA, Hong Kong
Mary Ann O'Donnell, Shenzhen Noted, Fat Bird, Shenzhen
Paul Tang, Verse, Shanghai
Li Xiangning, Tongji University, Shanghai
Daniel Aguilar
Hong Au
Michael den Hartog
Caroline Duncan
Nefer Fernandez
Christian Gomez
Isabelle Hong
Jin Hong Kim
Ashley Louie
Javier Meier
Paula Narvaez
Ashlyn Okimoto
Tamar Partamian
Samuel Rampy
Luis Villanueva
Krista Won
Tiffany Wu

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