Farms are beautiful as they are familiar to all, form dramatic landscapes, and most importantly they provide the essential harvest for nourishing our shared civilizations. In designing the masterplan for the National Museum Complex in Sejong, we find the farms in this part of South Korea stunningly inspirational. We believe architecture for such a significant museum complex should embody the same spirit as the beautiful farm lands: humane, organic, and authentic.
The masterplan design takes cues from the central park scheme and the natural grade change of nine meters to form a campus of small scale buildings integrated with the landscape. These modular buildings, appearing to rise gently along the natural slope, create a carpet pattern that defies any iconic stereotype. Instead, the careful placement of the massing and voids generate a wonderful human scaled village environment ideal for immersing oneself in art and culture. The modular museum buildings, based on a 9m by 30m inverted arch prefab concept, allows for infinite adaptability and organic growth over time.
The landscape plays an equally important part in our masterplan. A series of internal pathways cut through the land and serve as a network for pedestrian circulation. We sculptured the land so that it mitigates the 9m grade difference in various different sloped sections, creating a rich layer of intersections. The pathways, sometimes sunken, sometimes elevated, serve to not only connect different museums, but also to create a rich experience from various vintage points. The idea of a “museum mile,” borrowed from the famed New York City museum cluster, strings together the entire site through a north south pedestrian experience, with big atria, trellis, elevated bridges.
Material, craft, and light are fundamental to the making of a memorable architecture and urban design. In this proposal, we developed a material pallet that is rooted in the tradition of Korean architecture. Stone, concrete, wood, and brick are crafted together with planting and water features to form a warm and soothing environment. In the proposal museum complex, one finds similar qualities of the calming farm lands, tranquil rice fields, and fresh rain drops. Light is carefully introduced to softly light galleries, to cast articulate shadows, to render dappled daylight in outdoor plazas, to bring out the richness in authentic wood and stone pieces. As a result, this rich interplay between material and light give the masterplan timeless characters that are both historic yet contemporary, dynamic yet solemn, playful yet rhythmic.
We believe this proposal represents a 21st century approach to museum master planning - one that is blurring the boundary between architecture and landscape, between tradition and innovation, and most importantly between farm, village, and city.