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Ando makes his mark in Korea

May 06,2019
There are four spots in Korea where people can view the architectural perfection of Japanese architect Tadao Ando, such as the JCC building in central Seoul, left, and the Yumin Museum in Jeju Island, right. [JCC, JOONGANG ILBO]
One of the most loved architects of the 21st century, Tadao Ando of Japan, has left a definitive mark with his simple but elegant concrete building designs, even without a traditional architecture background. The story of his life itself is like a piece of art - he started off as a truck driver, then became a boxer before becoming an architect. Indeed, he has been the sources for books and a movie “Tadao Ando - Samurai Architect” (2016), which hit local theaters on April 25.

His world-famous buildings such as the Church of Light (1989) in Osaka and the Water Temple (1991) in Awaji are worth a flight to Japan just to take in the spectacle with one’s very own eyes. But for those who would like to take a step into the world of his architecture here in Korea, there are four spots around the country waiting for you to visit.

Located in Wonju, Gangwon, Museum SAN is famous not only for the artworks it displays within its galleries, but also for the artistic perfection of the museum itself. The museum began construction in 2005 and officially opened its doors in 2013, and it recently added a Meditation Hall on Jan. 1, also designed by Ando himself.

Jeju Island is home to two buildings designed by Ando: the Jeju Phoenix Island’s Glass House and Yumin Art Museum, both located on at the Jeju Phoenix resort. While the Glass House looks out to the sea, offering a picturesque view of the ocean, the art museum is quite the contrary, almost hidden underground. Only the short outer walls are visible from the outside, as all the structures are hidden beneath the surrounding ground level. The coziness of the space allows for the visitors to disconnect themselves from the outside world, to feel just them, the museum and the nature that surrounds them. The museum houses French Art Nouveau glass pieces.

Also in Jeju Island is the Bonte Museum, built in 2012. The museum, which mainly exhibits Korean traditional arts and crafts, was designed in a way that wouldn’t disrupt the surrounding terrain, according to the museum. “Our building shows off the best of Ando Tadao’s trademarks; the solidness of the exposed concrete, the elegance of the color and its harmony with nature,” the museum explained. Kusama Yayoi’s famed “Pumpkin” sculpture is on display.

Central Seoul is home to another building by Ando, in Hyehwa, just a few steps from the Hyehwa Rotary. The Jaeneung Culture Center (JCC) was built in 2015, a triangular building that needs no fancy ornament to make it stand out other than its unique shape. The building sits in perfect harmony with the slanted landscape, while his signature use of exposed concrete sports a modern touch to the clean-cut shape. The JCC offers concert halls, exhibit galleries, lecture rooms and space for other cultural events.

BY YOON SO-YEON [yoon.soyeon@joongang.co.kr]