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Camera Obscura

Seoul Photographic Art Museum, 2019


Location    Dobong-gu, Seoul, Korea

Typology   Museum

Status        Competition 

Client        Seoul Metropolitan Office

Size       6,300m²

Camera obscura which is an origin of contemporary cameras means a “darkroom” from Latin. It is also referred with the inverted pinhole image in a box. Like photography is a visual art encasing a unique frame of time and space with light sources, lights are the most significant sources for architecture as well as photography. Once built in a place, a formalized space stands still while it accommodates time changes. People in the museum experience a sensual variety of spatiality when lights illuminate the building elements through architectural devices like skylights. In terms of ways how lights work, there is a thread of connection between photography and architecture.

For the Seoul Photographic Art Museum, our proposal aims at constructing an architecturalized organism to orchestrate the natural sunlight on the building envelope and the interior space. Regarding the building form as a darkroom, the interior spaces capture a variety of lighting effects in intended ways. A building-height atrium is placed in the center of the museum and connects every functional room. The openings and bridges around the atrium provide diverse visual experiences of verticality. Like a camera projects an image through the lens, the atrium plays the role of derivating the sunlight inside. Having a vertical stack of a lens (a symbolic element as well as a light-well), a circular bridge, and a spiral stair, the atrium projects seasonal, time, and climate changes into the interior space. 

The veil is a temporary separator between creators (photographer/painters) and targets (or objects), or actors and audience; it is also a medium that creates hierarchical relationships. In architecture, it has been used as a tectonic terminology symbolizing a textile facade in Semperian theory. As a completely separating but morphologically pliable boundary, the building facade imprints a sense of place for the museum in time-lapses. In this sense, the proposal distributes the functional program inside a cubic volume of a textured monolithic envelope, which grants a metaphor of “wrapping veil.” The facade with monolithic materiality of GFRC (Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete) visualizes the time changes with the shadows of the embossed texture. Such plasticity also reacts to the contextual adaptation on the facade on a larger scale. The glazing wall on the southern entry opens the right-side widely as rounding the edge into the atrium for a sake of frontality. Likewise, each facade changes the geometry by the rules developed to engage in the existing contexts.

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