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What happens when Architects and Interior Designers travel? They search and learn. There is something about our profession that helps us a lot when we research about a specific place. Instead of searching for tourist attractions, we search for museums, for institutions, for public libraries, for bridges and walkways, for places that narrate all possible angles about the interaction of humans, the natural environment, and the built environment. We travel to see how things are applied outside our usual zones and try to take in as much information and inspiration in order for us to come home with acquired processes and methods for our design practice.

When my friends and I were plotting out this trip, we decided to make it a design field trip. We searched for buildings built by designers and architects that we personally studied and admired. One of them would be this art complex found in the bustling and booming district of Itaewon.
The Leeum Samsung Museum of Art is the perfect example of a good collaborative effort between Architects and Designers. The compound was divided into three parts-Museum 1 which was designed by Swiss Architect Mario Botta houses Korean traditional art pieces. Museum 2 was designed by French Architect Jean Nouvel showcases exhibitions and works of local and international modern contemporary artists, while the Samsung Child Education and Culture Center was designed by Dutch Architect Rem Koolhaas. It is indeed a one of a kind project as it brought three internationally acclaimed Architects to collaborate and sculpt a complex that celebrate the practice of Korean and global art and design.
Tall Tree by Anish Kapoor
We were fortunate enough to view the sculptures of Anish Kapoor on the outdoor gallery found at the entrance of the compound. The tall tree sculpture by Kapoor stands as the main focal point in the courtyard with its reflective material intentionally mirrors its surroundings and the behavior around it. This is actually one of my favorite installations at the museum.
The Sky Mirror by Anish Kapoor
The Sky Mirror by Anish Kapoor
Another favorite would be this large-scaled kinetic sculpture by one of my favorite artists, Alexander Calder. Strategically placed on the corner of Jean Nouvel's Museum 2, the contrasting geometry and use of primary colors stand out yet blends in with the dark and monolithic structure behind it. Somehow, the sculpture intentionally leads the eye to the architecture at the same time and it is one of the perfect examples of art and architecture collaborating to produce an immersive space.
When I first heard about three designers with different design approaches collaborating, it was quite hard not to be skeptical of the idea. I thought one would definitely stand out from the other, this might not work; but standing before the Leeum compound has proven me wrong. The design looked and felt like a synchronized orchestra, equally playing parts together, complementing each other and creating one whole musical scoring that has a huge impact on the listener. It's just too beautiful to think of - the process behind each building's design and how everything came together.
Since it's a museum, I decided to completely immerse myself inside in viewing the space and the art inside it. I really think that space is best experienced when you are fully present - minds, body, and soul. Though I may not have so much to show you from the inside, I would definitely say that the experience of being inside is a continuation of what we encountered outside. From the space planning to the materials of the building and the artworks displayed, everything was definitely well thought of and curated to the very last detail.
This stairwell or the rotunda of M1 by Botta is very iconic and I would say that it is an art piece itself. I love how the play of shadows and light gives out a romantic mystery to the people going up and down the stairs.

Wherever we are, Architecture is a universal language that tells us about culture, behavior, aesthetics, and even beliefs. It is a medium that is daily experienced by everyone, regardless of your background, skin color, or language. I would like to believe that Architecture paints a beautiful representation of life and experiences, and that's simply what makes it special.

Happy Heyday!
60-16 Itaewon-ro 55-gil, Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul

How to get there:
From Hangangjin Station (Subway Line 6) Exit 1, walk straight for 100m towards Itaewon.
Make a right turn at the first intersection and alley, walk up the hill for about 5 minutes.


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