Papers and Concrete: Modern Architecture in Korea 1987-1997


Papers and Concrete: Modern Architecture in Korea 1987-1997
September 1, 2017–February 18, 2018

National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea
30 Samcheong-ro, Jongno-gu, Sogyeok-dong,
Hours: Monday–Sunday 10am–6pm,
Wednesday and Saturday 10am–9pm

T +82 2 3701 9500
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Papers and Concrete: Modern Architecture in Korea 1987–1997 is an exhibition that examines the beginning of contemporary Korean architecture through the activities of architecture groups that were organized from the end of the 1980s until the mid-1990s. The exhibition lies in an extended line of critiques on the phenomena of the 1990s, which are widely conducted in art and culture, at a time during which people are especially revisiting important local and international social renovations thirty years after the ’87 regime and on the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. In this exhibition, “concrete” represents the explosive growth in construction and increase in consumption after the democratization of Korea, the opening up of the Korean market to the world under the name of globalization, and the collapse of the short-lived prosperity, a consequence of the IMF financial crisis in1997, while “papers” embody Korean architecture groups’ reflection in response to these phenomena and the consequent activities and ideologies pursued by their architecture movement in Korea.

It was in the late 1980s to the mid-1990s when Korean modern architecture went through a historical transition where the foundation for a variety of architectural institutions including architecture education was solidified. In this context, this exhibition will introduce ten architecture groups in Korea including the Young Architects Association (1987–91), the Research Group for Architectural Movements (1989–93), the Architects Association for the People (1992–present), the 4.3 Group (1990–94), the Architects Association for the Future (1993–2000), the Seoul School of Architecture (1995–2002), and the Graduate School of Architecture at Kyonggi University (1995–2006). Having appeared at a time when the Korean architecture market enjoyed its largest boom with a construction plan for two million homes and increasing supply for new cities, such groups expressed critical views on the state of affairs, but the groups were short-lived, none surviving for more than ten years. Their activities, however, served as indicators for the map of modern Korean architecture’s narratives and an attempt to join the discourse on contemporary global architecture.

Among others, the Young Architects Association, dubbed the first progressive architecture movement in Korea, strove to spread a progressive historical theory and raised questions on urban architectural issues such as redevelopment of cities, development of small-sized plots downtown, and the construction of Yongsan Park, issues that still seem relevant today. In the exhibition, activities of such groups and their research materials will be disclosed to the public for the first time. Consisting of 14 young architects in their 30s and 40s represented by Seung Hyo-sang, Cho Sung-ryong, and Kim In-cheol, the 4.3 Group afterwards moved the focus of their activities to educational organizations such as the Seoul School of Architecture and the Graduate School of Architecture at Kyonggi University and grew into a major Korean architecture group after completing important architecture projects during the early 2000s, such as Paju Book City.

Architecture groups in Korea questioned the role of architecture in society while pursuing improvement of the quality of architecture by addressing inner problems that arose from the design and construction processes. Despite different perspectives and attitudes, such groups came to congregate in shared awareness of the need for improved architectural education during the mid-1990s. The decade of the 1990s was a time when Korean architects struggled to solidify the intellectual foundation on which they could cross the border between the inside and outside of architecture and re-interrogate the meanings behind “modern architecture” in the Korean context. In this exhibition, you can encounter the legacies of the “papers” and the ways in which they confronted the world of “concrete,” a chance to unfold and discuss the multilayered context and horizon of contemporary Korean architecture.


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