Do you know the common point between the roles of Lee Je-hoon in the movie ‘An Introduction to Architecture’ and Jang Dong-gun in the drama ‘A Gentleman’s Dignity’? It is that both of them played the role of an architect. An architect is presented in dramas or movies as a very attractive profession and a romantic guy who usually builds his own house for his wife. Are architects’ lives as glamourous like movies in reality? In order to answer the question, The UOS Times met up with an architect Kim Chang-gyun (Dept. of Architectural Engineering, 91’).
He is leading an active life as an architect and even received the Young Architect of the Year Award in 2011 from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism. What is more interesting about him is that not only did he graduate from the University of Seoul (UOS), but he also continues to have a lot of special connections with the UOS.
▲ The lounge in International House
About an architect
A television producer once told Kim that an architect is a good character to be portrayed in a drama. It is because architects have very humane aspects, aside from how the public usually perceives them. He said the actual life of an architect is more dramatic and exciting than what is depicted in the drama. “Doctors, lawyers or prosecutors are all jobs that people are eager to have, but they always deal with people who are sick or related with crimes. Architects, however, meet people who can afford to build their own houses, who have attained some success. Those people fulfill a dream that others can barely make come true once in a lifetime.
▲ Media Center
Therefore, the energy that these people have is different compared to that of ordinary people. While interviewing my customers to design their houses, I can hear about their success stories and family life. There are lots of things to learn and it is interesting to embody their stories into the shape of a building. However, when I take on a project like that, my working hours become much longer. It actually makes me become a bit neglectful to my family. An architect’s life is like the two sides of a coin.”
Close ties with the UOS
Without the UOS, it is hard to talk about the process which led him to be recognized as a promising architect. As mentioned earlier, he graduated from the UOS and even met his wife who also majored in Architectural Engineering at the UOS. Plus, he is an adjunct professor now at the UOS and hires juniors into his firm. A more meaningful fact about him is that his debut building was Campus Maintenance Center (It was renovated to Media Center in 2011.) on campus. “I won the first prize in an open design contest of that building. The exterior of the building was used for a drama for eight months. For that reason, I received a UOS presidential commendation. After that, I undertook the design of the WEB burger restaurant on campus, the female student lounge and restrooms in Student Hall, the large lecture room in University Center, Cafe Be in Natural Science Building, Main Gate, the fare adjustment office in front of Main Gate and the lounge in International House. There are many things on campus I designed, from small rooms to buildings and the gate of the UOS.
His latest design is Main Gate. Frankly, even though it is a Main Gate, it seems like that there is no gate to open or close and a boundary line is obscure. It makes many people think that the UOS does not have a Main Gate. However, the newly developed Main Gate’s design was based on his own philosophy. “When a school’s gate is closed, that school can be considered as being authoritative, and common people might baulk at the school. Therefore, I removed such alternative element. The reason that students study at a university is not just for themselves, but eventually for the development of society.
Thus, a university campus should be like a very large park in the city, not a place that cannot be accessed easily.” Therefore, he reframed UOS emblem into a structure instead of an authoritative gate. You might not have known that the structure’s rhythmic pattern continues across through the ground, and is connected to the opposite wall, functioning as the gate. “Those who do not know much about the meaning of Main Gate tell jokes such as, ‘I can build better with my eyes closed.’ I want UOS students to take pride in the fact that the UOS is a public university.”
▲ Main Gate
▲ Reframed UOS' emblem as a Main Gate
Philosophy in architecture
His trace can be found in almost every corner of UOS campus. Indeed, he used to take charge of projects such as public restrooms, child-related facilities, playgrounds, private houses and the remodeling of elementary schools other than UOS facilities. In the beginning period of his career, he mostly took on renovation projects, so ventures gave him a nickname ‘Recycling Architect.’ He does not dislike his nickname. “I think if the building that is newly reworked can be harmonized with other surrounding old buildings after renovation, the meaning and value of that place can be more amplified.”
Moreover, he does not neglect even small buildings in a town and takes great pains to make them considered as landmarks of the city. He believes that advances in the architecture of a small town can contribute to making a healthier city. With this effort, he got another nickname, ‘Village Architect.’
His philosophy in architecture can be summarized in one sentence, ‘People should live together.’ This is well-shown on Main Gate and through his nicknames. It is also a philosophical idea he has in his everyday life. The UOS Times asked him, “What kind of an architect do you want to be?” He replied without hesitation, “I want to be an architect who is able to train a lot of young juniors. There is nothing to do by myself in the field of architecture. If I do not set up a foundation for them, they might have a tough time ten years later.”
Last but not least, what kind of a house does Kim Chang-gyun, an architect who seeks harmony and symbiosis, want to live in? He answered that he wants to live in ‘a magical house.’ He hopes to build a house which has different impressions outside and inside, so both passers-by and residents can become interested in it. He, who can bring happiness to not just his beloved wife but also all the people of the town, is a truly romantic guy, more so than the architects in movies and dramas!