architectural inspiration can be found anywhere according to moon hoon, the architect responsible for a series of eye-catching structures across south korea. ‘I am influenced and inspired by a myriad of things, from a client’s hairstyle to the dessert of the day,’ moon hoon tells designboom in this exclusive interview. ‘there are no boundaries in the inspiration game.’ moon hoon suggests that in future more architects will discover influences from a diverse range of fields. ‘not only are architects and artists sources for inspiration, but also, climate, environment, information, and technology will become strong influences and inspirations,’ he continues.
sangsang museum | read more on designboom here
image by kim yong kwan
from designing a mixed-use project for a client with a dracula alter-ego to realizing a series of dwellings for the bass player of an amateur rock group, moon hoon is no stranger to unusual briefs and requests. ‘some of them [clients] do not know what they want, but they want to have something different,’ says the architect, who develops his ideas through his wonderfully creative and detailed drawings. ‘I have been doodling since I was 4 years old,’ says moon hoon, whose drawings were first exposed to an international audience in 2014 as part of the korean pavilion at the venice biennale.
rock it suda | read more on designboom here
image by kim yong kwan
moon hoon also makes short films, which often document his completed projects. the architect says that these movies seek to ‘reinvigorate what has been lost while becoming a built environment’. the process also allows the architect to ‘layer a fantasy over existing reality’, a technique he compares to augmented reality. ‘I believe architecture is overly serious, I would like to spice it with some humor, which will relax us and make us more creative,’ moon hoon explains. read the interview in full below, and explore moon hoon’s extensive collection of projects on designboom here.
k-pop curve | read more on designboom here
image © moon hoon
designboom (DB): in our previous interview from 2014, you told us that you started doodling when you had little work. did you ever imagine that these drawings would be acquired by MoMA in new york?
moon hoon (MH): actually I have been doodling since I was 4 years old. I have been doodling ever since. my first exhibition was held in my school library when I was a teenager. surprisingly almost all my paintings and drawings were sold. oddly though, I never thought I would be an artist. my first exposure to international crowd came in 2014, when 40 of my drawings were exhibited as part of korean exhibition for the venice biennale. the first purchase contact came from tchoban museum in berlin. six drawings were acquired by mr. tchoban, who is a collector, artist and architect. in 2015, I was invited to exhibit my drawings for inaugural chicago biennale. next year I was contacted by MoMA, who wanted to purchase six drawings from my collection. I really felt honored to have my drawings as part of permanent collections with many renowned architects. in 2020, my drawings have also been purchased by MOCA (korea’s museum of modern art).
(left) urban robot, 2010 (right) wind museum, 2010
images © moon hoon
DB: many of our readers are inspired by your drawings. do you find this to be an exciting way to communicate ideas?
MH: it’s great to hear that my drawings inspire others. architecture as a built environment has to go through many hurdles, which inevitably adulterates initial conception. drawings, on the other hand can keep direct and essential thought energy, which in turn is pure and innocent in its intention. it defies gravity, time, and space, which allows for ultimate freedom and creativity which is the vital force of the universe itself. the universe has been created…
moon hoon x tomeny – windy dream
designboom: you also make short films related to your architecture. what do your films seek to convey?
MH: it has been my early intention to make short films after each project. only a few have been made when I had the right staff, who had the right skills in editing. I would often doodle story boards for projects. architecture is experienced through our moving body and senses — it is a perspective experience. as a continuation of spatial experience, it is very much like a movie, except, in architecture, the scenarios are open ended. many small films are linked in my homepage.
I make films for many reasons. firstly I try to reinvigorate what has been lost while becoming a built environment — compromises due to the budget, client’s wishes, and regulations. secondly, like augmented reality, I like to layer a fantasy over existing reality, so we can expand our senses and understanding of the world. we experience a limited version of infinite possibilities. I propose a vision or a window where all these possibilities are slightly hinted or shown. I believe architecture is overly serious, I would like to spice it with some humor, which will relax us and make us more creative.
image © moon hoon
DB: how do you work on your projects? what is your daily routine like?
MH: I doodle on a small moleskin or on a yellow tracing paper with many thoughts on a new project. I let it sit and let it also become part of the doodle like broken jig-saw puzzles. the doodles sometimes give clues to what my subconsciousness holds. sometimes a flash or an image or a vision comes to my mind, and I try to draw them. indeed I am inspired by the act of doodling where there are no hierarchies. I am a morning person, and I do most of my creative work during morning hours in solitude. I go to office in the afternoon to meet my collaborators or clients. I also like driving so I would sometimes cruise to nowhere…
DB: in our last interview you told us about your biggest influences. do you have any new sources of inspiration from architects or artists working today?
MH: I think diversity is the environment we are headed to as architects. not only are architects and artists sources for inspiration, but also, climate, environment, information, and technology will become strong influences and inspirations. I am influenced and inspired by a myriad of things, from a client’s hairstyle to the dessert of the day. there are no boundaries in the inspiration game.
DB: how do you assess the state of architecture in korea at the moment? how would you describe the city of seoul?
MH: I often think of the 90s japanese architectural scene when I think of korea. like japan in the bygone era, many new riches in the public and private sector are asking for different, and new architecture of diversity. korea would very much distinguish itself from other cultures in that, the trend is extremely strong. if exposed concrete is in vogue, many would feel comfortable in doing the same. spontaneous affinity and empathy in following the contemporary energy is really strong in korea.
two moon | read more on designboom here
image by nam goongsun
DB: you work with clients who often want something different. what have been some of their strangest requests?
MH: most of my clients are very different from ordinary koreans, in the sense that they visit me and say that they want something different. some of them do not know what they want, but they want to have something different. I am surprised to realize that there are many idiosyncratic people among such a seemingly homogeneous society. many want their designs to reflect something other than what they asked for. for example, they would want a house that does not look like one.
DB: you’ve spoken before about creating ‘3D spaces’ that result in a sense of dynamism or even vertigo. how do these compare to ‘2D spaces’?
MH: what I mean by 3D space is a space that is strong is verticality. a narrow, vertical space and spatial experience is what I am talking about. I would often provide a hovering, narrow bridge high up in the 3D space. I do feel we are more alarmed in vertical spatial experience. we do not anticipate a fall, but falling comes to mind.
DB: do you feel frustrated when you experience conventional or mundane architecture?
MH: not really, I just imagine a new layer of other possibilities on top of them. I guess a kind of day dreaming and fantasizing…
republic of korea pavilion at expo 2020 dubai
DB: what would be your dream project to work on?
MH: not exactly a dream project, but close enough: I am supervising my project in dubai, the korean pavilion for expo 2020, which I won in 2018 with my collaborators. the design is very spontaneous, sketchy, energetic, and ephemeral and has many many vertigo-inspiring rampways. the whole building is an expression of possibilities and the potential of an exhibition architecture and artwork. a lot of diagonals and movement is inherent in the gene of my design: wind will blow through it and refresh many visitors, while the rampway will provide great views and emancipate people from an architecture of closedness.
moon hoon | image © kwon hyeok jae