For me, architecture is an integrated phenomenon that compounds the objective and physical environment as a structural essence and the user’s subjective experience. This is a concept that includes invisible areas of the peoples’ diverse activities, locations, historical and cultural significance. It not only contains simple visual targets but even covers the atmosphere received through the senses and the physical and experiential phenomenon of the humans who accept this. Therefore, architecture is a study that creates a mutual relationship with the subject of humans and environment as a target. Naturally, the architect that l think of is one that plays the medium role of planning diverse connections between the physical environment and humans. Since human life changes substantially according to how this connection is created, I believe that architects possess a large social responsibility. Such belief was formed from my personal experience during youth.
I was born in a shanty town in Seoul in 1986 and lived there for ten years. Yet the hometown that I remember is now gone without a trace and completely new high story buildings have taken its place. The government presided total demolishing method redevelopment of the late 1900s created a deformed connection in my memory. Such one-way connection still invokes negative emotions to me such as that of loss, regret and nostalgia. Therefore, before selecting my major, I imagined of the desirable development image of my hometown area from a young age. Communicating with the area’s culture and diversity, I felt the need for a comprehensive plan that considers creating space that matches the Earth’s context and the social, economic and cultural environment that exceeds physical environmental improvement. The decision to develop as an architect was an inevitable choice and l entered the Department of Architecture at Hanyang University, which was one of the top 3 architectural universities in Korea.
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Even during planning projects conducted every semester, I always persevered to form a relationship or connection. Especially, the graduate plan was a project that renovates old office buildings into buildings for the Tokyo Olympics. It was as a result of considering profoundly about how architecture will respond within the overall relationship between the multi-national people and cities, who had gathered for the Olympics. I focused on the space that could be formed between the structure rather than the design of the structure itself and planned this niche space as an experiential location for an undetermined group of people. This secured the niche equality inside the packed city center, which seemed to have no chance of development whatsoever. This was ultimately discovering the new coexisting relationship between the construction and humans. These studies were run in Japan in an international workshop method for around three years. Debating with fellow students of a diverse background, I was able to think in diverse angles about what relationships are in architecture.
After graduation, I received two employment offers from two constructing companies. One was an experimental medium scale construction office called Mass Studies and the other was an atelier known for its housing planning called Lee Jae Ha Construction Office. I selected the latter which constructed houses. Rather than a construction that approaches in a macroeconomic perspective abstractly and sensually, I was more fascinated in housing which is the most basic construction unit that forms an intimate relationship with humans. Furthermore, I also selected a small scale atelier because I wanted to experience the PM role that manages the overall project from conceptual planning to design drawing as well as construction supervision, rather than a large scale company where the working system is specialized. At Lee Jae Ha Construction Office, I was able to experience diverse relationships that construction possesses at a more practical level and such experience motivated me to apply for graduate school for a more profound study.
I remember the amazing experience of forming a relationship of sending and receiving letters with the housing owner at Lee Jae Ha Construction Office. The director advised me to converse about not merely opinions about space, but also the opponent’s living habits, world views, child raising views and even date views. Since housing involves discovering the layer built memories of an individual’s life and making traces of new time that covers such memories, one must know the opponent’s entire life. Having had my diligence recognized, I was given the opportunity to be the role of PM within six months of practical work and from here, moving away from merely letters and design papers, I was confronted with more people in the real world, the relationships with them and the overall relationship within life of each of these people. To add, I realized that the overall relationship must be reflected well in the planning process for a persistent space that makes possible a meaningful life where the individual’s identity is revealed. Without such space, humans will live a fragmented life and will be in agony in between the new space and their mismatched relationships.
During the three years of practical work, I experienced not only the relationship between construction and humans, but also that of construction and location. To introduce one experience, there was the 99FLOWER project which remodelled old housing and offices to integrated neighborhood living facilities buildings. I was the PM of this project and with regards to the buildings built in 1984 that were perceived as old fashioned, through the process of analyzing and reflecting the changed context, the life of the building was extended. The buildings located in Seoul Gangnam region had its high tech and environmentally friendly context changed from its existing structure and connected it with the work of designing a new facade pattern and selecting a new finishing material. This building received the assessment that it contributed well to the city landscape of Seocho-gu and was awarded the Seocho Bast Construction Award. Through the successful project, I learnt that rather than construction making one objet, it was creating composite relations of many location specific rooms. Like building a good house is extending the overall relationship within an individual life, building a building is discovering the relationships in the cities layered for a long time and adding a new relationship to that place. In order to become an architect that decides appropriately within the relationship that this construction has, I felt the need for a profound study and became determined to study abroad.
Sometimes, I ask myself the question, are architects genuinely required in society? During my experience of practical work, I was placed in diverse relationships related to construction and I was able to establish my direction while organizing such relationship. It is an era at complex relations. There is no existence not entangled in relationships and architecture is the same. I will became an architect that coordinates with social sense of duty at a level where individual expression exists and that which makes possible the persistence of the relationship of construction, humans and society. Escaping from construction of the capitalist bridle that ends up with uniform form that only regards efficiency and standing against inhumane standardized thinking method and bureaucracy that parallels standardized buildings, I will become a courageous architect that proposes a new principle and direction. To amass the fundamental of such courage, I apply for Columbia. During the graduate course at Columbia, I will not halt at the proposal of far-fetched ideal space, but plan to research the intrinsic relationships of what link construction and realistic life, realistic environment and real world must have. After graduation, I will work as a public architect of Seoul City and like I sent and received letters with the housing owner with a truthful mind during my previous practical work, I will actively share opinions with residents participating directly in the local community and reflect it in my architectural plan. It is time when many regions in Korea, including Seoul, requires reconstruction or renovation due to the end of their building lives. I will broaden my thought tor two years at Columbia and stop cases where people possess hungry feelings of their hometowns. I will respect all the relationships that construction possesses and will develop into an architect that has the ability to make an accurate judgement.
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