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Morphosis unveils design for Korean American National Museum in Los Angeles

United States Architecture News - Aug 9, 2019 - 03:41   966 views

Morphosis unveils design for Korean American National Museum in Los Angeles

Pritzker Prize-winning architect Thom Mayne's firm Morphosis has unveiled design for the new home of the Korean American National Museum which will support the institution’s mission to preserve, study and present Korean American cultural heritage, from the legacy of the first Korean immigrants into the United States to the broad contributions of Korean Americans today and into the future. 

Morphosis' design is shaped through landscape elements, spatial organization, and architectural forms that symbolize and explore the Korean American experience. The two-story building is based on the idea of a lifted, displaced landscape - a piece of Korea grafted on to Los Angeles - containing the museum within.

Morphosis unveils design for Korean American National Museum in Los Angeles

The program of the museum will incorporate gallery, store/café, multi-purpose event space, archive, offices, education, parking. It is still in the design process and expected to start construction in 2020. 

The project will be built on a prominent corner of 6th Street and Vermont Avenue in Los Angeles' Koreatown; the design acknowledges this intersection by establishing the museum’s entry at the corner. By disengaging from the Cartesian direction of the city blocks, the new orientation signifies the autonomy of the displaced landscape and begins a more dynamic centrifugal experience that culminates in a dramatic triple-height gallery, according to the studio.

Morphosis unveils design for Korean American National Museum in Los Angeles

This non-Cartesian gallery is composed of two intersecting volumes, further referencing the continuing duality of our existence: Korea and America, past and future, and the state of current Korea. The gallery’s form is geared toward an immersive digital experience that will propel this museum’s curatorial mission deep into the 21st century.

Regarding the concept of the museum, the firm explained: "as nature is a perennial, unifying theme of Korean art and culture, we focused on the narrative opportunities of landscape to define the design of the museum."

"As we did so, we were inspired by Korean American architect Eulho Suh’s concept of ‘displaced memory’ and its embodiment in space: our design is an allegorical migration of the Korean landscape and expression of its contribution to the quintessential American ethnic quilt, with traditional Korean plants intermixed and interplanted among California native flora." 

"As the land is grafted and stitched onto the American soil, it takes the form of contained landscape, which in turn holds the museum space within."

Morphosis unveils design for Korean American National Museum in Los Angeles

Beneath the allegorical landscape, the museum will contain a classic courtyard plan of the traditional Korean Hanok, circling a central open space with a fluid, interconnected ring of galleries, meeting rooms, and offices. 

The exterior volume will be built from an abstracted solid concrete edge, with no indication of any scalar elements to further frame the landscape. The design links traditional architectural symbology with significant architectural components: the museum’s exterior wall is embossed with a pattern that has protected the royal palaces, and its interiors defined by a sculptural ceiling-scape evoking the vaulted ceiling of a Hanok.

If everything goes as expected, the building is scheduled to open in 2022. The Korean American National Museum (KANM) was founded in 1991 to plan and operate the nation’s first and only institution devoted to preserving, studying, and presenting the Korean American community’s cultural heritage. 

KANM’s board decided at that time that this institution would be located in Los Angeles’ Koreatown, a community west of downtown Los Angeles that is home to more Korean Americans than any other part of the country. 

Morphosis unveils design for Korean American National Museum in Los Angeles

The State of California has already awarded $4 million to the museum to help fund the new museum project. 

Morphosis is also working on the new home of the Orange County Museum of Art in California. A sinuous hotel is another striking project of Morphosis at Sunset Boulevard of Los Angeles. Thom Mayne will be working with Eui-Sung Yi, a partner at the firm and Project Principal for the Korean American National Museum. 

All images courtesy of Morphosis

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