Korean War Memorial Park for Civil Victims
“Forest of Truth and Reconciliation” (competition title)
Although war monuments can be truly powerful, they can never reflect to the fullest the gravity of war. The gravity of such historical event requires a strong expression to reflect it. Elaborating a monument of national importance, which is 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.
It has been chosen to place the Memorial Park out of the city in a rather natural environment soaked with history (the site is wartime mass grave). Thus, instead of doing an urban park, the project seeks a deeper connection with the surrounding background and tries both to integrate and enhance the site’s geographic and historic characteristics.
Although easily accessible by a nearby road, the Park is looking for privacy in order to offer the visitors an intimate experience. Considering that some of them might be direct relatives to the victims of the Korean War, the project aims not only to honor those victims but to respect the grief of their families by providing a quiet and serene atmosphere.
The proposal consists in organizing the functions, each in a separate volume, along one main alley that splits, unfolds and gathers while 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 site.
The main entrance of the project is physically marked by a volume that crosses the road, creating a strong limit of 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. A volume next to it serves as 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. The ground under the alley contains the remains of war victims that are to be excavated and exhibited in the Outdoor memorial space. This space consists of nine concrete capsules placed on pedestals and arranged on a very symmetrical grid in which earth and human remains from different excavations around the country are exhibited. Visitors are invited to walk around, explore, and commemorate the Korean Warvictims. Their experience is enhanced by the view and the sound of the water cascade at the eastern side of the plaza.
On the northern side of the Memorial Hall, an Amphitheatre is proposed. Although it is not required by the competition brief, Simple Architecture finds it an indispensable feature of a national scale monument, as it allows for large public events to be held in the Park. It sits naturally on the existing slope of the terrain, and offers additional underneath space for storage and maintenance services, while being sound and visually protected from the road by the Memorial Hall’s facade, which also serves as a background to the stage.
A cafeteria is intentionally placed in an independent volume. Thus, random visitors and passersby can also profit and appreciate the serene landscape of the Park.
Similarly to the main entrance, an upper one, located on the eastern end of the site, has an arched wall crossing the road that marks the presence of the memorial. 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 between light and shadow in the main entrance marks the starting point of a unique experience that takes the visitor to a world of history, commemoration and education. Deprived of any visual connection with the outside, one loses orientation and is only guided up and down the volumes of different proportions and content by the carefully arranged spatial organization. The Memorial space is the only white room in the project. The softness of its surfaces contrasts with the rough concrete used for the rest of the project. Forty columns emerge from the ground and point to the sky, disappearing in the light. They represent the real „forest of truth and reconciliation“ (the title of the competition) and invite the visitor to reflect on the timeless connection between life and death. Walking between past and present, one effortlessly crosses the narrow 225 meter long concrete block of the Memorial Hall to eventually return to the everyday life outside.
LocationDaejeon, South Korea
PhasesPre-design, Schematic design