About
MMCA Gwacheon
Interview with Architect Tai Soo Kim X Architect Doojin Hwang, Giraffe Pictures, 2016

MMCA Gwacheon
 

The Arrangement of Buildings and the Entrance to the Main Building
The foremost important problem that I felt regarding architecture when I saw the site of the museum and the landscape around it was how this gigantic museum would be in harmony with the surrounding mountains. The mountains in Korea feel different from the ones in other countries. They induce particular feelings with terrains that are delicate yet magnificent, which makes it especially difficult and requiring more attention when constructing any building near and around them.
— Tai Soo Kim, “On Designing the National Museum of Contemporary Art”, Journal of Korea Institute of Registered Architects, 1986

One important aspect is to make what is unexpected emerge from an architectural experience. The Korean traditional architecture substantially used this aspect. Buddhist temples in the mountains are examples that show its frequent usage. When one approaches the museum, it is seen as if it was put on a ridge. When one comes closer, its shape shifts as the angle of vision is tilted. In more proximity, the building vanishes while the wall is the only visible architectural element. Following the road to make a turn to the access road to the museum, the museum building in its layered shape appears to one’s surprise. When one reaches the bridge that connects to the entrance of the museum, one can encounter a panoramic view of the museum complex that boasts symmetry in its composition.
— Tai Soo Kim, “On Designing the National Museum of Contemporary Art”, Journal of Korea Institute of Registered Architects, 1986

About the Shape of the Building and the Material Used for Its Exterior Walls
Since the scale of the structure should be small in order to be in harmony with the terrain of Korean mountains, I placed a big platform at the bottom on which three round buildings are put…
Seen from afar, the museum looks as if a platform was placed on a hill, three circular elements lightly sitting on the platform. It is in harmony with a beautiful mountain that lies behind it… For the exterior of the building, I decided to use pink granite that is the most common material in Korea. A singular color unifies the complex shape of the building. The delicate color creates good harmony with the color of stones in the surrounding mountains.
— Tai Soo Kim, “On Designing the National Museum of Contemporary Art”, Journal of Korea Institute of Registered Architects, 1986

The Search for a Modern Museum Space and Formative Quality of Architecture
As the Ministry of Culture and Information (now the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism) was established in 1968, the central government started to manage the cultural administration and policy development. In the 1970s, a number of museums were built as part of promoting cultural activities. Considering that national universities, libraries and museums had been important measures to establish the national identity in different countries, the installation of museums in Korea can be seen as a natural phenomenon. Buyeo National Museum, the National Folk Museum of Korea, and Gyeongju National Museum opened during the period. However, the architecture of the museums often did not focus on their exhibition spaces or operation but the expression of their symbolic value and traditional qualities. Such focus on the figurative representation of traditional architectural elements also revealed limitations in organization and usage of space. The meaning of MMCA Gwacheon in the history of museum architecture in Korea comes from the fact that it moved away from such an approach and sought to interpret tradition in a modern way and find formative qualities. The general organization of different buildings in the museum complex and the spatial organization from the entrance to the interior of the main building are a result of the Kim’s thorough analysis of the site. In particular, the neutralization of the interior space is also a result of his pursuit of purposefulness of the museum building. All these elements display the distinctive character of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (National Museum of Contemporary Art then), Korea, which is different from the buildings of other cultural facilities that merely focused on the figurative representation of tradition.
— Excerpts from the text of the exhibition Tai Soo Kim Retrospective: Working in Two Worlds (19 Feb–6 Jun 2016)