South, North Korean architectural history to showcase at Venice Biennale

2013-04-10 19:55

Korea will show 100 years of architecture in South and North Korea at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2014, according to Cho Min-suk, commissioner for the Korean Pavilion of the world’s biggest architecture exhibition.

“The Korean exhibition will focus on the history of Korean architecture, not contemporary architecture or architects, which corresponds with the central theme of the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale,” said Cho at a press conference on Tuesday to unveil the direction of the Korean Pavilion exhibition.
The Korean Pavilion of the Venice Architecture Biennale from 2012. (Arts Council Korea)

“It’s not going to be a story of one side, but a story of both sides ― South and North Korean architecture,” he said.

The theme of the 14th international architecture exhibition is “Fundamentals,” chosen by director Rem Koolhaas in an attempt to focus on “histories ― on the inevitable elements of all architecture used by any architect, anywhere, anytime (the door, the floor, the ceiling, etc.),” according to the website of the architecture biennale.

Under the sub-theme linking the national pavilion exhibitions, “Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014,” the Korean Pavilion is expected to show a comprehensive exhibition on how Korean architecture has evolved during the period ― including the Japanese colonial era, the Korean War and the division of the Korean Peninsula. 
Cho Min-suk, commissioner for the Korean architecture exhibition. (Arts Council Korea)

“What’s interesting about Korean architecture is that you can see both modernity and unique national identities in the architecture of the South and the North, which I think is the point Koolhaas desired to examine in coordinating the national exhibitions,” said Cho.

“North Korean architecture remains a mystery to most of us, but there have been research and studies on it. I’m planning to contact experts whose studies are about North Korean architecture,” said Choi.

Cho has organized an advisory group of scholars and critics of architecture to create a broad picture of the exhibition.

Cho, who worked at Koolhaas’ architecture office from 1996-98 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, runs his own architecture firm, Mass Studies, in Korea. Its representative projects include the “Dalki Theme Park,” in Paju, Gyeonggi Province; “Nature Poem”; and “World Expo 2010 Shanghai: Korea Pavilion,” for which Cho received the silver award given by the Bureau of International Expositions.

The 2014 Venice Biennale Architecture Exhibition runs from June 7, 2014, to Nov. 23, 2014, at Giardini, the Arsenale and various other venues in Venice, Italy.

By Lee Woo-young  (
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