Representing Korean architecture in the modern West: Two Korean Pavilions from 1960s international expositions

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The Korean Pavilions for the 1964 New York World's Fair and the 1967 Montreal International Exposition were designed by Chung-Up Kim (1922-88) and Swoo-Geun Kim (1931-86) respectively, two pioneers of modern architecture in Korea. Both pavilions' designs raise a widespread architectural question about the modern representation of tradition. In contrast to earlier pavilions in Chicago (1893) and Paris (1900) that replicated poorly supposedly 'authentic' Korean architecture, these 1960s entries modernised traditional architecture from their architect's creative viewpoint. While Chung-Up Kim noted the formal qualities of the Korean sloped roof, especially its curvilinearity, Swoo-Geun Kim emphasised the traditional timber structure underneath the roof, exaggerating its horizontal layers. In other words, the former's pavilion was more expressive and sculptural, which reflected the architect's Corbusian and even Aaltoesque tendencies. Conversely, the latter pavilion was more logical and systematic. However, Swoo-Geun Kim's interpretation of tradition was also ultimately about the form, though he soon became more interested in space. With regard to the form, the two Kims shared the fundamental idea that the past must not be imitated as it was, but re-created in a modern sense. This underlying argument is reflected in the contemporary 'debate on tradition' ignited by the design competition for the National Museum of Korea in 1966. It also relates to to the 'Japanese-Style Scandal' of 1967 in which Swoo-Geun Kim suffered for his design of the Buyeo National Museum, 1965-68, due to the inclusion of Japanese nuances in the design of the Montreal Pavilion. Swoo-Geun Kim's later high-tech style pavilion for the 1970 Osaka Expo, alongside recent projects by Minsuk Cho in Yeosu (2010) and Venice (2014) has more recently suggested alternative ways to represent Korea in architecture. Therefore, these two pavilions from the 1960s can be understood as unique inflection points in Korean architectural history.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)155-170
Number of pages16
Journalarq: Architectural Research Quarterly
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Architecture
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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