Screens in the street...
Screens from the street...


In a deliberate reference to Bernard Tschumi’s Manhattan Transcripts I reinterpreted five junctions along the alley in order to view them as smaller sites within the site. 
Sites within the alley...
Tschumi’s drawings read like a storyboard, the filmic quality heightened by the rhythm and motion of page turning.  The metropolis, with its familiar punctuations of park, street, tower and city block is an elaborate set piece that is fragmented beyond cartographic representation. 
Tschumi's Manhattan Transcripts
The drawings make a claim on architectural discourse as an arena for abstract narrative – an idea I believe I am testing in my own thesis.  My assemblage of plan (1:100), photograph and drawing visualise new spaces within a familiar territory.
                Re-visualising the junctions...
The exercise also brought to mind Piranesi’s Carceri – that eerie collection of etchings that re-imagine a prison through distorted planes, scales and perspectives.  
Plate XIV from Piranesi's Carceri


A Test

This week we were joined for a few days by Florian and Phil of ARU and LMU Unit 1, who were in Seoul to promote their latest publication on Saemangeum Island City.

We began with a visit to Paju Book City where ARU have three built projects.  I visited these around a month ago but the repeat excursion was greatly enhanced by the unique privilege of being walked through the buildings by the architects.  Our guided exploration covered both conceptual ambitions and material considerations.  We were set a short exercise – to collate this information (along with our own observations) at a number of scales into a ‘dossier’, to be presented two days later.
ARU buildings in Paju (l-r): Positive Thinking Publishing House, YoulHwaDang Publishing House, YoulHwaDang Book Hall
I used it as an opportunity to test my own preoccupations with the intention of producing two booklets: one on expressions of emptying (layering, transparency, circularity and overlapping), the other on filling.
In fact, I was only able to produce the first but I intend to complete the second since the two actions are part of a circular process – emptying enables filling, the process of filling enables emptying...
(click thumbnails below to enlarge)
Layering: The site strata creates an infrastructure for the buildings in Paju
YoulHwaDang is emblematic of this
'landscape infrastructure'
Transparency: YoulHwaDang window detail,

polycarbonate provides transparent insulation
Transparency (not just through materiality):
the rooms are invited to inhabit one another
Circularity: views into other rooms allows a
continuous unravelling of space
Overlapping: fair faced concrete within the 
book hall brings exterior into the interior, the 
book-shelves are smaller buildings that 
face a larger one in the centre of the room
Layering; the varied planes of the facade
transform it from one building into four

The booklet was well received and led to a wider discussion about the space between objects.  Phil explained that the Korean word for space ‘kangang’, when translated has a meaning more akin to emptiness.

I also presented some of the drawings that would form the booklet about elements of filling (light, shadows, landscape):

Shadows activate the layered facade
The surrounding landscape is drawn in through framed views in the upper storeys  



Historically the site marks an interface between Seoul’s public persona and its private disposition.
It remains emblematic of this friction – a sealed locality quietly resisting external influence - the royal carriageway is replaced by a hard crust of tower blocks and corporate chains.
...an interface between public persona and private disposition 




Draw a Straight Line & Follow It

My site is a deft slice in the shadow of the main street.  I drew my own line within the site, a view where the continuous quality of the street plays out like a filmic sequence.

In the performance piece ‘Zen for Head’ (1962), Korean born artist Nam Jun Paik dipped his head in a bowl of ink before dragging it (like a giant brush) along a scroll of paper.

'Zen for Head' - Nam June Paik
The piece was a reference to Asian calligraphy and an interpretation of "Composition 1960 No. 10" by the Fluxus artist LaMonte Young which consisted entirely of the instruction: 
"draw a straight line and follow it." 

In Praise of Emptiness

Emptiness, as a spatial entity is a strong motif in the Korean tradition,  one compellingly registered during my visit to Gyeoungbok Palace where empty space gives form to the objects within it.
Traditional Korean architecture obscures the boundary between solid and void, (interior and exterior, public and private) enabling the flow of emptiness

Spatial expressions of emptiness:

1. Circularity
Sequentially arranged rooms, which unfold along the linear axis simplify circulation and preclude abrupt discontinuity
2. Overlapping
Folding doors and sliding screens diffuse the limit of interior and exterior, they create frames between spaces, encouraging one to enter the other

3. Transparency
Layering of light creates nuance and intricacy
The resultant spaces possess flexibility and are responsive to the possibility of filling.  But here, filling is separated from fullness (with its implication of unbreachable volume) and physical objects; it denotes intangible elements that anchor experience and imagination.

Elements of filling:

1. Light
Dark interiors amplify light diffused by paper screens affording it presence and weight

2. Shadow
Shadows symbolise formlessness, they are the trace of time left on space
'what strikes the eye is the massive roof of tile or thatch and the heavy darkness that hangs beneath the eaves'
 - In Praise of Shadows 
Jun'ichirĊ Tanizaki 

3. Landscape
Natural scenery is brought into view filling an empty space, this is the concept of ‘borrowed landscape’ (chagyeong


The Contract

A special week: we were joined in Seoul by Robert and Catrina for the sharing and signing of contracts.  This marks a pivotal moment in the Free Unit, one that ends the initial period of investigation and defines the ambition of the project in order to move into more focused territory.
My contract takes the form of a visual document.  It is a discussion about voids in the city as a means of examining a specific traumatic event. The images and text form a map of an investigation that acknowledges scale, the process of discovery and site.
The contract format implied deliberation on material presence:  
how should it be viewed? And where? 
An aimless stroll along the city’s main boulevard Jongno-ro proved surprisingly rewarding.  Cutting a swathe from east to west it is one of the oldest processional streets in Seoul.  
JONGNO-RO an ancient processional thoroughfare
It is also one of the busiest, and so, abandoning the crowd I slipped into a parallel side-street along its northern flank; a ragged alley that hums with industriousness, and through the rear doors, affords glimpses back to the main street it sustains:
The main street; the side street...
...and glimpses between...
...a gap that bridges a gap
In this place it is the space between objects; the incisions in the urban fabric – one broad and one narrow - that create a narrative about the city.  As a processional route, Jongno-ro was strictly speaking private space, the domain of royalty and dignitaries.  Pre-colonial maps show narrow lines bordering the length of the main street on either side. These slender counterparts enabled uninhibited circulation for everyone else.
In their present incarnation, the side-streets terminate in fits and starts along the northern boundary, and have been largely erased from the southern one.  The major thoroughfare was the first to be enlarged by the occupying Japanese as part of the ordering of streets’.
 TWO INCISIONS; the private wide street, the narrow public street (1927, 2010)
The view between the streets creates a space that connects two separate conditions; it is a gap that bridges a gap.  The alley is the intermediary scale between those depicted in my contract; it is my gallery. 
The gallery...
The exhibit...
Every show opening needs a press release...
The show opening
..and some (preliminary) buyers:
RED DOTS: 'Buying' into the contract...
All the contracts were officially signed the following day:
Signed and sealed