‘Shapeless museum’ selected for MOCA’s new Seoul branch

  • Published : Aug 6, 2010 - 18:33
  • Updated : Aug 6, 2010 - 18:33

The design for the Seoul branch of the National Museum of Contemporary Art, which will be built on the site of the former Defense Security Command (Kimusa) complex in Sogyuk-dong, central Seoul, was announced on Friday.

The winning design, “Shapeless Museum,” by a consortium of two firms -- mp_Art Architect and Siaplan -- suggests an open and flexible museum complex which is not restricted by its site but naturally blends in with the surroundings. The design was selected from among five finalists narrowed down from a total of 113 applicants after the preliminary round.

“The museum will be a landmark of Seoul. The crucial screening points for the designs were how it proposes to deal with the museum site’s surroundings, what kind of vision it offers as an art museum of a new era, how the flow of human traffic and environmental problems are considered and how the main ideas were supplemented after the preliminary round,” said Gang Seok-won, a representative of the five-member jury.

He added that the winning team’s proposal was selected by the committee unanimously.

“The area has its particularities, with Gyeongbokgung in the front and Bukchon in the back. The jury agreed that “Shapelessness” proposed an art museum with great spatial sense that harmoniously embraces the fragmented buildings and spaces around the area,” said Gang.

The selected plan calls for the construction of seven buildings, including the old military building, and many yards around them.

The area has a height limit of 12 meters, so a lot of the space will open underground. Buildings will have two or three basement floors. Finishing materials of the buildings will be white terra-cotta. 
“Shapeless Museum,” the selected design for MOCA’s Seoul branch (MOCA)

“The historical Samcheong-dong and Bukchon area around the museum site will be the main identity of the museum. We suggested a museum that does not overwhelm its surroundings but rather becomes a background that makes its surroundings shine,” said Mihn Hyun-jun, the main designer of the winning team and the head of mp_Art Architect.

“The museum will have many faces. If you look from the Gyeongbok-gung side, the old Kimusa building be the face of the museum and if you look from the Bukchon area, the Jongchinbu buildings will appear to be the main gate,” he added.

Visitors can freely walk into the museum from any direction through the open yards. There will also be an underground footpath which traverses the museum from the Bukchon area to the Samcheong-dong area.

The design suggests preserving as much of the original Kimusa building as possible by simply adding a glass top and turning the first floor into an open lobby to break its authoritarian image. A modern building that is symmetrical to the Kimusa building will take place next to it.

Some of the museum site is reserved for Gyeonggeundang and Okcheokdang, whose remains were recently excavated at the site, to be reconstructed. The buildings were a part of the Jongchinbu, which was an institution that took care of the royal family’s affairs and royal portraits in the Joseon Dynasty.

“We also kept in mind that some of the bridges that used to be over the Jungang stream that flowed in front of the Jongchinbu buildings could be restored as well. Leeseungdang is said to be impossible to restore, so we are planning on installing fountains there,” said Min.

There are concerns, however, that the National Museum of Contemporary Art’s announcement of the selected plan was too hasty because the excavation of the site has not been completed. Remains of the Jongchinbu buildings were unexpectedly unearthed there in June and Cultural Properties Administration has not officially closed down the excavations yet.

“We think there is weak possibility that more relics will be excavated. But in case something very important comes up, the plan for the art museum could be changed,” said Park Young-dae, commission of planning and management chairman at the Culture Ministry.

MOCA expects that planning for the Seoul branch will be finished within eight months and the construction will take about 20 months.

When completed, the Seoul branch will be the final part of the National Museum of Contemporary Art trio, which includes the existing ones in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province and Deoksugung, central Seoul.

By Park Min-young (claire@heraldcorp.com)