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  • Jun 13, 2014

Korea scoops 14th Venice Architecture Biennale

Installation view showing the Utopian Tours section of the Korea Pavilion at the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale, 2014. Courtesy

On June 7, Seoul-based architect Minsuk Cho received this year’s prestigious Golden Lion award at the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale 2014 for the Korea Pavilion. Cho, the curator and commissioner of Korea’s participation, presented an ambitious project titled “Crow’s Eye View: The Korean Peninsula” that looked back on the relationship between architecture and history on the peninsula over the last 100 years: “In the Korean Pavilion, the architecture of North and South Korea is presented as an agent—a mechanism for generating alternative narratives that are capable of perceiving both the everyday and the monumental in new ways,” stated Cho in his curatoral statement. Despite Cho's attempts, it did not prove possible to involve North Korean participants in the origination of the project.

The pavilion stood out by including not only architects, but also multidisciplinary practitioners—of the 39 participants, only 19 are architects, urbanists or architecture theorists, the rest are artists, writers, photographers and filmmakers. Divided into four areas of research—Reconstructing Life, Monumental State, Borders and Utopian Tours—viewers were guided through the evolving, distinct yet related architectural environments in the two countries. The international jury, including Francesco Bandarin, Kunlé Adeyemi and Brechtje van der Haak, applauded the approach as a “rich body of work in a highly political situation.”

The title of this year’s Biennale “Fundamentals” was conceived by Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas. For the first time, all 65 national pavilions were asked to respond to a single theme, Absorbing Modernity 1914–2014. According to Koolhaas, this decision gave countries an opportunity to show “each in their own way, a radical splintering of modernities in a century where the homogenizing process of globalization appeared to be the master narrative.”

The Venice Architecture Biennale runs until November 23. 

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