During Chung-Ang University’s winter vacation, there was a lot of construction everywhere. In addition, the Central Library is undergoing remodeling. The completion of the construction work will be finished by September, this year. According to a hanging board on an entrance of the construction site, the planner of the construction is Archium. Kim In-cheurl is both a professional architect who leads Archium, an architectural firm and a Professor in the Dept. of Architecture of CAU. Chung-Ang Herald met him in his office.
Central Library Building in Chung-Ang Univerisity
As a planner of the Central Library remodeling
Professor of CAU designed a building of CAU: There are Departments of Architecture or Architectural Engineering in most colleges. Also, there are many great professors in them. However, constructing buildings is usually in charge by outside architects when those colleges need any construction. It is because of the history of the curricular of architectural education that is divided into designing and engineering is not so long. In other words, few professors actually can conduct practical designing. It is a pity to ask other architects while there are many architecture professors. In this circumstance, Park Yong-sung, the chairman-chancellor of CAU did not invite outside architects but suggested giving the remodeling project to a professor of CAU after planning the remodeling of the library. I was one of the few practiced architects among the professors so that I clinched the project.
When I took the project, I gave a couple of conditions. First is to respect my design, because it is important not to meddle in the architect’s design. It could ruin the architect’s intention of the building. In addition, it would be a shame that a designer says the construction was on him who built the interfered building. Moreover, it is not good in the view of education. Second is to present the budget clearly. It is hard for me to negotiate the budget with my client. You will see the reason far below.
Focus of designing: I visited central library for the first time to make my plan. I did not go to the library because it was not an interesting building to visit. In addition, I was nearly shocked. The building was so old and small that it seemed students’ complaints of the library were natural.
Then I found some information about it. The central library was erected in the latter half of the 1950’s. It was designed by Cha Kyeong-sun, who also planned Pheiffer Hall of college of pharmacy. It was one of the biggest and modern buildings in Korea. Yi Seung-man, the then president, cut a ribbon. As you can see, the structure is old enough. Because of its age, the library was nominated for modern architecture properties like the main building of the Bank of Korea. It means the library is old enough to be a cultural asset.
Therefore, I focused on revealing the layers of time of the building. You can understand the layers of time thinking why people felt deep grief when Sungnyemun was burnt down. We did not cry for its blocks or tiles but for its history and our memories. Like Sungnyemun or old structures in Europe, I wanted people in the new library to feel the weight of history even if it is newly remodeled. We architects call it ‘Old and New’.
The blueprint: To express the main points above, I decided to keep several parts of old one. First, the inner court remained. The chairman-chancellor wanted to fill the court area and to multiply some reading room, but I will not just remove it. The half of the courtyard will be removed slantingly. Second, although many students who have seen a blueprint on the website are not happy, the clock tower will be maintained. The tower would be a reminder of the old library for students and graduates. In addition, the interior of the first and second floor that contacts with the ground will be preserved. Therefore, I want the remodeling to be a ‘New’ construction above the ‘Old’ history.
As a professor of Architecture
“When I was asked to be the professorship at first, I thought that it would be just good. Because Archium got on the track at that time, so I do not need to spend my time on it. In addition, universities have long vacation - almost half of the year. So, I thought I don’t need to abandon my private life if I accept the proposal.”
However, it seems that he was tormented by the reality. As an architect, before a professor, he could not change the traditional curriculum although he feels it is not effective enough. He always thinks ‘experience’ is the most important process to be a great architect, but there were not any practical lectures in college. The attitude of the students also brought him down.
“I was embarrassed. Unlike other students outside of colleges, it seemed that my attendants did not respect me as their professor. I felt like it was not a relationship between teacher and pupil, but just a relationship between a speaker and some people who paid for.”
Although he was disappointed, it is clear that he desires to cultivate great architects. He loves students and their passion for architecture. Actually, he does give field lectures once a semester, although it is tough in regular curriculum. He already thinks about a lecture at the central library-constructing site in this semester.
As an architect
He is a humble architect. He respects the ground and people. His architecture is all for humans and the ground.
“Architecture should be a means entirely for human. Material value and shape should be in harmony with man’s life and can propose an advanced life style. Moreover, there would be no ostentation and pretense to be a fine architect. When I do my designing, my goal is to make progress and change for reality. Reality here would mean routine life. It is important for an architect to know architecture is not an omnipotence work but just a way to make difference to reality.”
Also on an interview about ‘Tiltup Project’ with Decojournal, you can see his respect to land. Tiltup is one of Kim’s products erected on a slope.
“I wanted to express my respect for the land and to break our fixed idea that a building should be on a plain. Building can be constructed again, but the ground is an untouchable one. The ground and a house, to put them together, the house should be humble. And that is exactly what our tradition is like.”
CAH asked him about the campus of CAU
“Most of all, I can say it is not good. Let us think about the land. I regard the land as root of people. Every country has different culture because their lands were not in the same condition. People build houses and make their living, which is suitable to their lands. The various life styles become the culture of each area. In case of CAU, the estate has several hills. Many hills – you cannot describe the land of Korea more. Therefore, it would be beautiful if the designers used the lay of the land efficiently. In addition, maybe climbing the slope can be much easier.
As an enthusiast for architecture
Why architect?: I think it was not destined and not very fatalistic. Architecture was just one of the choices I can choose. However, I did my efforts in positive mind, and I guess that made today’s Kim In-cheurl. Anyhow, it is so fun for me.
From most people’s view, architecture is something great and profound but to Kim, there is nothing more amusing than it is.
Interest: Interest is the most important basis. I told my students, especially freshmen, please think about whether you have any interest in studying architecture. If you like somebody, then it is natural you want to know about them. In addition, it’s same about architecture or other studying. If you like architecture, then you want to study more and more.
In that meaning, I am still interested in architecture. When working on a project from day, usually it’s dawn without my notice. It is not a problem of the amount of work, because design work always needs long-term thinking. In other words, immersion.
Therefore, architecture is an enjoyable work to me. Therefore, I am not good at budget negotiation. I feel sorry to raise the budget level. For me, clients are appreciated people. They choose me and give me projects that amuse me and money to make living. So, how can I demand more money? Now you can understand the second condition I made about the remodeling the central library.
As an adult, tips
My tough time: To people of my age, International Monetary Fund (IMF) crisis would be the hardest moment. My architectural firm even spent a year without any projects because of the bad economy in that period. I felt sorry for my staff, not because I could not give their pay, but I could not give them any projects they wanted. By a miracle, there was a project that had not been canceled. A building covers about 60 pyeong. Of course, all staff and I devoted ourselves to the project. Then the building became the masterpiece of mine, Kim Ok-gil Memorial Hall.
Architecture requires patience: It is hard to feel success in the architectural field. At college, you can estimate your possibility to go on or not at least in the junior class. After graduating, you would do self-rating on your work at least after ten years. In addition, as a practical architect, it takes a long time to realize the idea as an actual building. Therefore, everything is slow and has long term in this field. Self-examination is important but it is not easy. We say ‘success’ means who withstands longer in architectural sphere.
Tips: I want you to spend time worthy. You are young and have a lot of time to spend. Try to change your days from insignificant hours to meaningful time. Just remember, the project you are in now makes the next project you will be in.< 저작권자 © 중앙헤럴드 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >