YANGJU – Led by architects Chae Songhee and Laurent Pereira – respectively of Korean and Belgian nationality – Chae-Pereira Architects is a Seoul-based practice which has recently received a lot of attention and praise for the design of the newly-completed Chang Ucchin Museum in Yangju, South Korea. The institution cares for a collection of artifacts from Chang Ucchin, a 20th-century painter, often referred to as one of the most preeminent representatives of modern Korean fine art.

Although the capital is only 30-km away, Yangju boasts acres of mountainous, undeveloped landscape – a condition likely due to its near proximity with the country’s northern borders, sealed off by the heavily-defended Korean Demilitarized Zone.

The winning proposal of a competition held a few years ago, the design shapes a highly-distinctive character and has a strong personality forasmuch as the architects sought to move away from the utterly cold and impersonal approach often taken in such commissions – from which usually arises alienated, whitewashed spaces. Somewhat like the celebrated artist, the project cannot be classified as either traditional or contemporary. It rather brings together, in a fairly conventional fashion, abstract elements stemming from Ucchin’s work. The result is both ambiguous and dynamic. It playfully, yet clearly lays out stirring exhibiting spaces and deftly frames the complimented scenery, in such a way that the lush setting turns into a static image, a work of art at which the visitors can actually gaze.

The 1650-sq-m programme is distributed on three levels. The interior circulation loop – though it may convey the impression of a maze or a labyrinth – moves up forthrightly towards a succession of adumbrated spaces, revealing a contrasted interplay of light and obscurity. Consistent with the architects’ exploration of opposites, the façades are clad with polycarbonate sheets – a material which allows for the building to appear like a weightless object. What results is a structure that unfolds ethereally around the site’s existing conditions and thus doesn’t impose a monumental permanence.

Photos Park Wansoon