Korean War Memorial Park for Civil Victims

“Forest of Truth and Reconciliation”

No architectural proposition can be more off scale than the tragic statistics of a war. Gravity of historical events requires a strong expression to reflect them. Becoming a monument of national importance and a symbol of all the civil victims of the Korean War can only be achieved through radical architecture: one that goes beyond the conventional spatial routines of everyday life.

The location of the Memorial Park has been chosen to be out of the city, in a rather natural environment soaked with history, so instead of doing an urban park, the project seeks a deeper connection with the surrounding background trying both to integrate and enhance the site’s geographic and historic characteristics.

Although it is easily accessible by a passing-by road, the Park is looking for privacy in order to offer the visitors an intimate experience. Considering that some of them may be direct relatives to civil victims of the Korean War, the project aims not only to honor the victims but to respect the grieve of their families by providing a quiet and serene atmosphere.

The proposition consists of organizing the functions expressed by built volumes along one general alley that splits, unfolds and assembles, passing along the various excavations and connecting the eastern and western extremities of the site. The geometry of the project is composed of simple shapes: a rectangle, a square, a semi-circle, and a triangle, each offering a different spatial perception of the whole. Natural components, such as water and vegetation have been meticulously shaped to increase shadows, reflections, sounds, and aroma through the entire project.

The main entrance of the project is physically marked by a volume that crosses the road, creating a strong limit on the project’s perimeter. This is the bridge that not only allows visitors to access securely the Park, but through its high walls it serves as a transition space between everyday life and the world of memory. Another volume next to it holds an info point and service spaces.

The Outdoor Memorial Space is the intersection point of the two orthogonal systems of the project. A square plaza that marks the end of the eastern excavation alley serves as a transition space towards the Memorial Hall. Nine concrete capsules placed on pedestals and arranged on a very symmetrical grid exhibit earth and remains from different excavations around the country. Visitors are invited to walk around, explore, and commemorate the civil victims of the Korean War. Their experience is enhanced by the view and the sound of the water cascade on the eastern part of the plaza.

On the northern side of the Memorial Hall, an Amphitheatre is proposed. Although it is not required by the program, it is an essential feature that takes the project to a national scale, allowing large public events to be held in the Park. It sits naturally on the existing slope of the terrain, and offers additional space underneath for storage and maintenance services, while being sound and visually protected from the road by the Memorial Hall’s screen facade.

A cafeteria is intentionally held in an independent volume. Thus, random visitors and passersby from the road can also profit and appreciate the serene landscape of the Park.

Similarly to the main entrance, the upper entrance located on the eastern end of the site uses a wall crossing the road to mark its presence. Another concrete volume nearby contains a second info point and service spaces.

Unlike the Park, the Memorial Hall offers a much interiorized ambience. The strong contrast from light to shadow at the main entrance marks the starting point of a unique experience, taking the visitor to a world of history, commemoration and education. By preventing any visual connection with the outside, one loses orientation and allows to be guided by the carefully arranged spatial organization, climbing up and going down to volumes of different proportions and content. The Memorial space is the only white room of the project. The softness of its surfaces contrasts with the rough concrete used for the rest of the project. Forty columns emerge from the earth and point to the sky, disappearing in light. They represent the real forest of truth and reconciliation and question the timeless connection between life and death. Walking around past and future, one seamlessly crosses the narrow 225 meters long concrete block of the Memorial Hall to eventually return to the present outside.

Year

2020

Location

Daejeon, South Korea

Type

Competition project

Phases

Pre-design, Schematic design

Date

Category