Contemporary Architecture in Korea

Jong Soung Kimm

Presented at the 15th Hahn Moo-Sook Colloquium in the Korean Humanities

George Washington University

November 3, 2007


The presentation traces the development of contemporary architecture in Korea starting with a survey of early group of western style buildings going back to the last decade of the 19th century, up to the end of the Japanese colonial rule in 1945. It then discusses the period from the end of the Korean war to the start of the 1980’s during which time architects endeavored to explore three major themes: use of new materials and technology; creativity in form-making; expression of tradition in contemporary architecture.

Major portion of the presentation will deal with diverse types of buildings, which have been built over the last three decades on the Korean soil, and which have given the character to the appearance of what Korea is today. It is intended to highlight not only the large urban scale buildings which have transformed the face of a metropolis such as Seoul, but also work of some architects who, by choice, produce architecture in small atelier form of practice. At another level, the creative output of the younger generation of architects will be contrasted to those of “corporate architects,” including large-scale practices from other countries.

The paper concludes with discussion of the future prospects for architecture in Korea in an increasingly globalizing world.

Contemporary Architecture in Korea

Jong Soung Kimm

Presented at the Hahn Moo-Sook Colloquium, George Washington University 11/03/07

1. Introduction

2. First Group of Western Style Buildings 1890~1945

Three Groups of Architects: Catholic Missionaries from France and Priest-Architects

Presbyterian and Methodist Missionaries and American

and Canadian Architects selected by them

Japanese Colonial Government Architects

Seoul (Myŏngdong) Cathedral, 1898 Eugene-J.-G. Coste (France)

Severance Hospital, 1903 Mr. Gordon (Canada, invited by

(Predecessor of Yŏnhŭi College) the Founder, Dr. Oliver R. Avison)

Tŏksugung Palace Sŏkchojŏn, 1910 G. R. Harding (UK)

Ewha Women’s College Pfeiffer House, 1910 William M. Vories (USA)

Bank of Korea, 1912 Tatsuno, Kingo (Japan)

Yŏnhŭi College Underwood Hall, 1918 Mr. Murphy (USA)

Seoul Railroad Station, 1925 Tsukamoto, Yasushi (Japan)

Japanese Colonial Government Building, 1926 G. E. De Lalande (Germany)+

Nomura, Ichiro (Japan) et al

Seoul Anglican Cathedral, 1926 Arthur Dixon (UK)

Japan Red Cross Seoul Branch, 1933 Sasa, Keiichi (Japan)

Emergence of Korean Clients: Kim Song-su; Pak Hŭng-sik; and the First Generation of Korean Architects educated at Keijo (Seoul) Higher Technical School

Posŏng College (Korea University)

Main Building, 1934; Library, 1935 Pak Tong-jin

Chungang High School Main Building, 1937 Pak Tong-jin

Hwasin Department Store, 1937 Pak Kil-ryong

Tŏksugung Palace Museum, 1937 Nakamura, Yoshihei (Japan)

3. End of Colonial Rule, Independence, Korean War 1945~1953 – Architectural Vacuum

4. Period of Reconstruction and Fulfilling Demands for Physical Facilities 1953~1980

Three Major Themes Explored by architects: Use of New Materials and Technology;

Creativity in Form-making; Expression of Tradition in Contemporary Architecture

Catholic Medical Center at Myŏngdong, 1963 Kim, Chung Soo/Chonghap Arch.

French Embassy in Seoul, 1962 Kim, Jung Up+Chung, Kil Hyup

Samil Building, 1971 Kim, Jung Up

Space Group Office Building, 1974 Kim, Swoo Geun/Space Group

Independence Memorial Museum, Chunan, 1981 Kim, Ki Woong/Samjung A & E

5. Period of Growth for Contemporary Architecture in Korea 1980~Present

Seoul Hilton Hotel, 1983 Kimm, Jong Soung/SAC

Kyobo Insurance Co. Head Office, 1983 Cesar Pelli/Gruen Associates+

Aum & Lee Architects

LG Twin Towers, 1987 SOM Chicago+Changjo Architects

World Trade Center, 1988 Nikken Sekkei (Japan)+Wondoshi

Architects, et al

Gymnastics Hall for ’88 Seoul Olympics, 1986 Kim Swoo Geun/Space Group

Weight-lifting Gymnasium for ’88 Seoul

Olympics, 1986 Kimm, Jong Soung/SAC

Sŏnje Museum of Art, Kyongju, 1991 Kimm, Jong Soung/SAC

Seoul Museum of History, 1998 Kimm, Jong Soung/SAC

Sindo Ricoh Office, 1999 Min, Hyun Sik/Ki O Hun

SK Corporation Head Office, 1999 Kimm, Jong Soung/SAC

Chongno Tower

(Samsung Life Insurance Building), 1999 Rafael Vinoly+Samwoo Architects

Wellcom City Office Building, 2000 Seung, Hyo Sang/Iroje

Uije Museum, Kwangju, 2001 Joh, Sung Yong+Kim, Jong Kyu

Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, 2004 Mario Botta, Rem Koolhaas/OMA,

Jean Nouvel+Samwoo Architects

Kwangju Design Center, 2005 Jang, Yoon Gyoo/UnSangDong Arch.

6. Prospects for Architecture in Korea- Concluding Remark


Architecture Festival Organizing Committee at the Korean Institute of Architects: 100 Years of Korean Architecture, Seoul, 1999

An Changmo: A Study on Architect Pak Tong-jin, Ph.D. dissertation, Seoul National University, 1997.