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Legorreta building in Jeju under demolition

A building by the renowned Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta on Jeju Island is being torn down this week, ending months-long debate on whether to preserve or demolish the building.

The building named “Casa del Agua,” meaning the House of Water in Spanish, was originally built in 2009 to function as a temporary model house for a hotel and condominium resort in Jungmun Tourist Complex in Seogwipo, Jeju.

Legorreta, who died at 80 in 2011, won several prestigious architecture awards including the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 2000 and the Bloomberg and New York Times American Property Award in 2010.
Casa del Agua in Jeju before demolition. (Yonhap News)
Casa del Agua in Jeju before demolition. (Yonhap News)

Although built as a temporary structure, its value as a rare example left by the late architect in Asia has been noted and attracted many visitors across the nation, as well as local and foreign architecture students.

But Seogwipo City announced last year their decision to demolish the building. They said the building was registered as a temporary structure, built without proper environment evaluation, and its maintenance period ended on June 30, 2011.

Civic groups and the architecture circle together with the Mexican government rallied to block the demolition plan.

“The Jeju government is destroying the treasured architectural work although they said they would look for ways to preserve the building,” said the anti-demolition committee of Casa del Agua on Wednesday.

The government of Jeju had previously said they would find ways to relocate the building once they gather opinions from residents of the island and civic groups.

The appeal made by JID, the owner of the structure, to retain the building was dismissed in the court hearing last year.

The ruling read: “The temporary structure was built to function as a model for sales of condominium and its maintenance period has expired. If we decide to keep the building just because it doesn’t ruin the landscape of Jeju and has high architectural value, that will cause damage to the authority of the local administration, which can’t enforce effective architecture measures further.”

By Lee Woo-young  (wylee@heraldcorp.com)
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