Year: 2019

Location: Seoul, South Korea

For: National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art - Unearthing Future

Team: Jimenez Lai, Kyoung Eun Park, Yushan Men, Jake Parkin, David Musa, Jiajia Shi, Michael DePrez


Our relationship with time is a relationship with the ground, as layers of dust cover earth over long enough of a timeline that the past is deep beneath us. In this project, we have four conceptual frameworks that help guide our design principles.

1. The Future Archaeologist

Archaeology is often performed through acts of excavation. Every year, a few centimeters of dust accumulates on streets, buildings, and landscapes. Over the course of decades or even centuries, layers of earth cover traces of the past. Archaeology is an act of excavating the past. Uncovering earth is uncovering the past. 

Centuries from now, our relationship with the ground will only elevate. In thousands of years from now when we look back, The Deoksugung Palace will be deeply submerged into the new earth. The layer that is datum will be the top-surface, many meters above our current relationship with the ground. 

Our project, the Future Archaeologist, excavates the air above. It is an elevated platform to reach a future datum floating in time. This piece of land flying in the sky will be a new normal, centuries from now in the future. It will be situated at a future year zero and a future ground zero, as visitors of this project can look beneath their feet - and in doing so, view below centuries into the year 2019 as a distant past.

2. Mangru (망루), the Ultimate Weapon (of Leisurely Detachment)

Historically, watchtowers played very important roles during times of territorial disputes. As a military building typology, watchtowers allow defendants to gain foresight and allow them to buy time and space for preparation and strategies. 

In the Korean context, Mangru is a predominant type of military lookout. Before forms of space-age mapping technologies were available, to be able to perform surveillance is to exert political power and control. In addition to extra-territorial eagle-eyes, to be able to watch is also to be able to maintain intra-territorial security and governance. In contemporary Korea, the interconnectedness of the digital platforms of social identities makes forms of surveillance and control a non-physical one - one that democratizes power and control as a self-governed fluid matter of opinions. 

Today, to watch is perhaps less related to surveillance, but more connected to ideas of detachment. Gaining some physical distance from the rest of the society affords perspective and the room for self-reflection. To watch is to leisurely detach oneself from the heat of the moment, and to contemplate the next steps forward.

3. Jacob’s Ladder v. Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2

Jacob's Ladder (Hebrew: סולם יעקב Sulam Yaakov) is a ladder leading to heaven that was featured in a dream the biblical Patriarch Jacob had during his flight from his brother Esau in the Book of Genesis. The description of Jacob's ladder appears in Genesis 28:10-19: And Jacob went out from Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran. Jacob dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.

Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 (1912, Marcel Duchamp), is a climb of a staircase in the opposite direction. The notion of unattainable goals and impossible pasts is a part of the concept of our project. The endless staircase ascending to a heaven, or descending to purgatory, are both stories about a journey rather than a destination.

4. Elongated Maison Dom-Ino

In 1914, Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier proposed a diagram “Maison Dom-Ino”. This project was an abstraction about the status of the architectural plan. More importantly, Maison Dom-Ino was a story about the early 20th Century relationship with the ground. In Le Corbusier’s Five Points of Architecture, one can read within it the status of “ground” during a time of international economic and political revolutions. 

The act of detaching oneself from the ground is a declaration of political dissociation: upon the same plane, two (or more) ideological models can co-exist, particularly when bracketed by a framework that is architecture. In particular, the piloti is a very important component of Le Corbusier’s detachment from the ground. Unlike all of the European columns that came before the piloti (Doric, Ionic, Corinthium, etc), the piloti is the first one lacking in both base and capital. It is a shaft-only column that rejects the notion of up (capital) or down (base). Consequently, the idea of the roof garden and the free plan are both acts of total detachment made possible by the rejection of orientation. 

In our project, the Future Archaeologist, we want to continue this conversation in the 21st Century, nearly 100 years from Maison Dom-Ino. This time, we regard ground as layers of physical time, as well as layers of air as time we have yet to arrive.