[FOUNTAIN]Home talent neglected in design search

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[FOUNTAIN]Home talent neglected in design search

More than half of all Koreans live in apartments. Most newborn babies call an apartment home. Each apartment is different in terms of price and size, but our bodies are crammed inside cubes of concrete. Some people find it discomforting to live in apartments and dream of living in a house with a backyard. Those who wish to live in a house, even if it means the inconvenience of having to clear away snow, yearn for an architect who can make the dream home come true.
Architecture magazine AQ asked non-architecture majors in college to name their favorite architects for its first issue. Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi topped the list. His architectural legacy is seen in the attractions in Barcelona and proves his infinite imagination. Second place was Tadao Ando, a former boxer turned architect. A Korean placed third, Kim Su-geun.
An interesting entry is Lee Chang-ha at fourth place. He appeared in a television program as a savior who renovated the homes of people struggling financially. Regardless of the gift as an architect, normal people remember him better as a good-hearted benefactor.
The understanding of architecture and architects in Korea is meager. When structures designed by acclaimed foreign architects such as Rem Koolhass and Jean Nouvel are built in downtown Seoul, Korean architects get cold treatment. Sometimes, Korean architects are not even eligible to enter their designs in international design contests held here.
Recently, a Korean conglomerate made China curious when it chose an American architectural firm to design its building in Beijing over the design of a Korean architect who was highly regarded there. Even the government forgot about talented Korean architects when it commissioned a foreigner to design a new embassy building in Berlin. While other countries nurture star architects, we are neglecting native ones.
However, Korean architecture is still going strong. In the last year’s Venice Biennale, the commissioner Jeong Ki-yong and three architects, Kim Gwang-su, Song Jae-ho and Yu Seok-yeon, attracted the attention of the international architectural scene with their “City of the Bang” exhibition. The exhibition starts Feb. 23 at Marronnier Art Center in Daehangno, Seoul. We should remember our own skillful Korean architects.

by Chung Jae-suk

The writer is a deputy culture news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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