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Title Korea CQ - Epilogue of 'Technology, Art and Space' lecture by Bong Ryol Kim, president of Korea National University of Arts
Posted by webmaster Hit 539 Date 2019.11.13

Dear Korea CQ members,

On November 5, the Korea CQ forum was held at the Hungarian Ambassador
s Residence in Seoul. Bong Ryol Kim, the president of Korea National University of Arts, gave a special lecture about Technology, Art and Space.


H.E. Mozes Csoma, Sunmi Nam, Bong Ryol Kim, H.E Bader Mohammad AlAwadi, H.E. Philip Turner, Hiroshi Ikeda, Francois Belin, Sylvie Belin, Erwan Vilfeu, Younggoog Park, Seung Eun Lee, Kwiyeon Kim, YoonJung Park, Sungju Lee, Gee Chan Kwon, Hooran Kim, James Park, So Yoon Park, Sung Hoon Choi, Tainam Jung, Kwon Ha Ryu, Sun Hwa Dong, Yuna Park, Junghwa Choi, Didier Beltoise and Crystal Park attended.

The evening started with the welcoming remarks by H.E. Mozes Csoma, the Hungarian Ambassador.

After the welcoming speech, members enjoyed a delicious dinner specially prepared by H.E. Mozes Csoma and Sunmi Nam, the spouse of Hungarian Ambassador : Goulash soup, Pogacsa, California Rolls, Quiche Pie, Meat balls, Beef & Peanut Sauce and Banana & Kiwi Crème Brulee.

After dinner, members watched a video on the activities of CICI and the lecture was started.

Bong Ryol Kim, the president of Korea National University of Arts, gave a special lecture about Technology, Art and Space. He shared a lot of information about the 2000 years-old history of Korean traditional architecture.

The lecture was followed by an enthusiastic Q&A session with our members.

Before closing the event, we also had time for the lucky draw. Congratulations to everyone who won!


We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to Bong Ryol Kim for his interesting talk and to Mozes Csoma and his spouse Sunmi Nam for allowing us to have a wonderful night at the Hungarian Ambassadors Residence.

Last but not least, we would like to thank all members who attended the forum as well as Crystal Park for her interpretation help.

Thank you.

Korea CQ Heejae Shin

Please click on the link below to see more photos:

<’Technology, Art, and Space’ by Bong Ryol Kim>

Today, I would like to summarize the history of Korean wood architecture with three basic subjects: technology, art, and space.
The three major ancient Korean kingdoms of Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla were strengthened after the 5th century AD, when powerful political groups unified the tribal powers of their region. Royal authorities integrated their members through the idea of Buddhism and streamlined their social systems by introducing the Chinese bureaucratic system. In addition, they subdued neighboring areas with demonstrating superior technology based on ironware culture. Architecture had played an important role in that process. It was the most powerful means for expressing the supremacy of divine kingship and the forcibility of bureaucracy with no particular explanation.
This is a large pyramid tomb from the Goguryeo Kingdom. The base of the pyramid measures approximately 30 meter on each side and is 14 meter high. There must have been special facilities on the top level. Around this pyramid, there are many other tombs. The largest of these is over 60 meters on a side. However, these stone constructions were only built as graves.
This is the restoration model of the Buddhist temple of the Baekje Kingdom in the southwestern part of the Korean peninsula. The largest building groups at the time were palaces and temples. The palaces and temples were the most powerful architectural evidences that revealed unified cosmology, strong administrative ability, dominant economic power, and advanced technology. The construction of a gigantic monument which was planned and controlled by autocratic power, was the passion of all the kingdoms at that time. Massive buildings were built of wood, except for some pagodas that were built of stone. The kingdoms competed against each other, on the construction technique, to build higher and larger monumental buildings.
Hwangryong-sa temple was the most representative temple of the Silla Kingdom which faced the eastern sea. Hwangryong-sa was built in the capital of the Shilla Kingdom from the sixth century. Buildings in the temple were arranged following the geometrical scheme. The nine-story wooden pagoda was in the center of the Hwangryong-sa complex. This pagoda was the tallest building in pre-modern Korea. The building behind the nine-story pagoda was the main hall for the Buddha and it contained a large Buddha statue, which was said to be one of three great treasure of Silla Kingdom.
A few legends related to the construction of Hwangryong-sa are recorded in a history book. They all express the religious and political ambitions of the Silla Kingdom. One of the legends is about the nine-story pagoda. A monk recommended the construction of the nine-story wooden pagoda, and he said that if it was built in Hwangryong-sa, all the countries in the east would surrender to Silla. This story implies the political ambition in high-rise buildings. Building huge Buddhist Monuments was an essential national project for the growth of the kingdom.
Many scholars have made hypotheses about the structure of Hwangryong-sa nine-story wooden pagoda. The name is nine-story pagoda but the actual size may have been closer to 18 stories, because the roofs between the floors each occupies the space of one floor. The total height is estimated to reach a maximum of 80 meters. It was a difficult technique to build repeated structures, but resisting the lateral forces was a bigger challenge. Each layer had to form a solid frame to withstand winds and earthquakes. This is why highly developed technology was needed to build high-rise wooden pagodas.
The roof showed the scale of the architecture. The overlapping and stacked tiles on a sloping roof, with complex and intricate patterns added a lot of weight. For example, the decorative roof tile on the left picture is 182cm high, as tall as a grown-up human. When the height of the building increased, the roof became wider. The wider the roof became, the heavier it weighed. It was necessary to reinforce the structure that supported the heavy roof.
After the eighth century, as the unified nation was established, the competition for huge monuments began to decrease. No buildings bigger than Hwangryong-sa pagoda were built. The Hwangryong-sa pagoda was rebuilt several times over 600 years, but it disappeared during the Mongolian invasion in the 13th century. The sizes of monuments had been adjusted to more appropriate scale, and the schematic layout of buildings began to accommodate practical needs. Buildings were getting smaller but more elaborate.
The Goryeo Dynasty ruled from the 10th to the 14th centuries developed splendid Buddhist arts. However, the Buddhist sculpture of Goryeo was evaluated more secular and less expressive than that of the previous period, because universal and idealistic aspirations for absolute power in the growing period of the ancient kingdoms had now receded. Instead, the Goryeo arts reflected the taste of the nobility, exotic forms and local colors to create a unique form. Nobles who were patrons of the arts regarded architecture as artwork.
This building is Muryangsu-jeon hall for the Amitabha Buddha in Buseok-sa Temple. It was built in the 14th century. This is considered one of the most artistic buildings in Korea. A closer look at the beautiful wood structure shows that it originated from a structural necessity. However, it has surpassed the structural need. The pillar with entasis, a slightly convex curve, is producing a stable and smooth impression. Bracket system on pillars for transferring the load from the roof into the ground represents a natural and systematic load flow.
This layout is of Byeongsan-seowon, a private Confucian school built in the 18th century. The dark parts of the building in the picture are the open spaces with wooden floor, and the white parts are the closed spaces with stone heating floor. Buildings consists of such combination as yin and yang. The open space is public and the closed space is private. The same composition exists in the relationship between the buildings and the courtyards. Yin and Yang. Finally, total architecture and nature are incorporated into the Yin and Yang cosmology. Such a logic behind Korean architecture dealt with environment from the small part to the whole throughout the consistent policy, which made Korean architecture excellent.
In a set of buildings, the relationship among the buildings is more important than each building. No buildings are complete by themselves. They play roles by only corresponding with land and connecting with nature. This pavilion in Byeongsan-seowon functions as a frame without any ornaments. The faraway nature is magnified through the frame. We can see the sky, the mountain, and the river through it. The segmented frame makes it possible to observe nature in detail, to know the seasons, and to feel the flow of time. It helps people realize they are living in vast universe. Frame organize space makes us meditate.
Here is a summary of the story so far. In the age of technology, people were shocked by huge buildings. The gigantic monuments expressed social aspirations by themselves. In the age of art, architecture became the object of appreciation. With ornaments and proportion, the artistic completeness of buildings was all that mattered. In the age of space, at last, architecture began to commune with the human body. By regulating human behavior and vision, it could enlighten the human mentality. This process kept pace with the progress of human intelligence.
A great honor in the architectural world is called the Pritzker Architecture Prize. Recent winners usually have things in common. They have created optimal spaces by considering the global topics of both people and regions. The value of architecture ultimately depends on its human effect not on self-completeness.

Q. Choi Junghwa, President of CICI:
Besides the buildings you have designed, what do you think are the most beautiful and meaningful architectures in Korea?
A. Kim Bong-ryol, president of Korean National University of Arts:
Seung Hyo Sang's Welcome City in Jangchung-dong seems to be a meaningful work, an architecture with a message. I used to be interested in big and stunning buildings only, but nowadays I prefer nature and trees. It’s almost impossible to surpass nature. I want architecture to give the same comfort that’s coming from a tree.
Q. Choi Seonghoon, President of MID:
This year, nine traditional Seowon in Korea were listed as World Cultural Heritage. Was the opened Mandaeru pavilion of Byeongsan-Seowon an inspiration for the ceiling of the National Museum of Korea?
A. Kim Bong-ryol, president of Korean National University of Arts:
I don’t think it has much connection but it can be seen as an inspiration. Making empty spaces bigger is a common value of architecture. The advantage of the Mandaeru pavilion is that it attracts nature. The building itself is not important. Attracting the nature is.
Q. Erwan Vilfeu, President of Zuellig Pharma:
The old wooden buildings of the Bukchon Hanok Village are well preserved. How does Korea protect buildings so they remain intact?
A. Kim Bong-ryol, president of Korean National University of Arts:
The most important point in determining World Cultural Heritage is the originality. For example, for a Greek temple, the material used must have been cut 2000 years ago. If the material is new, it will be criticized for its lack of originality and we won’t be able to reconstruct it. The problem is that for wooden Oriental buildings, the material itself has a short lifespan and this wouldn’t work. So when the UNESCO organizes a meeting, about Japanese architecture, the technology and the protection of the wooden buildings is taken into account rather than the lifespan of the material. If a fire damages a building, protecting the old design while using new pieces of wood would be considered preservation. Even if protecting is the matter, no matter how hard we try, wood is weak. It easily burns and it will rot when kept 200 years. Because of this problem, keeping good records is more important than paying attention to how to protect architectures. You have to keep record and replace parts according to it when they get old. The famous shrine called Ise Grand Shrine in Japan, the oldest wooden building in the world, is about 1400 years old. To preserve this shrine so long, we moved it one every 20 years. It was destroyed and rebuilt 70 times in total and was then recognized as 1400 years old. This is how we protect wooden architecture.

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