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Korea Blog: Ways of Looking at Kim Swoo-geun, Korea’s Poet of Brick, Concrete, and Much Else Besides

This year’s Pritzker Prize, informally known as the “Nobel Prize of architecture,” went to Isozaki Arata, one of the most celebrated architects in Japan. His more than 55-year-long career, the many and varied fruits of which include Los Angeles’ Museum of Contemporary Art, began at the University of Tokyo, from which he received his doctorate in architecture. In that program Isozaki had an exact contemporary by the name of Kim Swoo-geun (김수근), a Korean who had come to Japan after the outbreak of the Korean War to continue the architectural studies he had begun at Seoul National University. Though Kim wouldn’t make it to the kind of age at which one typically becomes a Pritzker laureate — much less to late in the ninth decade of life, when Isozaki received the prize — he would go on to become South Korea’s first modern architect.

Or at the very least, Kim would become the individual with the most convincing claim to have led South Korea’s very first generation of modern architects. In just over a quarter-century he designed more than 200 structures in his homeland and elsewhere: nation-building institutions, museums, housing, houses of worship, a vast and controversial electronics-market complex, a stadium, and even a subway station. The variety of purposes to which he built is equaled by the stylistic variety in which he built them: having emerged from his architectural education in the same kind of Europe-facing modernist mode in which so many of his Japanese colleagues began their careers, he then spent most of his career in search of a genuinely Korean architecture suited to the modern world.

Read the whole thing at the Los Angeles Review of Books.