MUSEUM2 | Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art
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MUSEUM 2_Beyond Space Leeum

MUSEUM 2_Beyond Space

Sensuous images actualized by high technology and contemporary art

Jean Nouvel, whose designs are at the junction of high technology and contemporary art, defines architecture as “space-constructing skills and image-manufacturing tasks”. The Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art’s MUSEUM 2 envisioned Jean Nouvel’s design process.

With trees on the ground, the structure of Jean Nouvel’s MUSEUM 2, which grandly arises from the carved ground, symbolizes the endless generation of contemporary art. The main components of the overground are exterior glass walls and rectangular cubes of various sizes.
These randomly placed exhibition boxes provide audiences brand-new exhibition experiences and contribute to visitors’ overall dynamic experience. The Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art’s MUSEUM 2 will be used as a permanent exhibition space for the works of the world’s best contemporary artists such as Donald Judd and Damien Hirst, as well as artworks by Korean modern and contemporary artists. Audiences will enter through the lobby.

Rusted stainless-steel was used, for the first time anywhere, to manufacture the exhibition boxes. Countless tests and sample analyzation were done to visualize this paradoxical concept – that rust-proof stainless-steel could be rusted. MUSEUM 2, like contemporary art that yields new meanings from objects by observing them paradoxically, sanctifies the whole building as a gigantic art piece through materials and spaces far beyond the conventional.

Architects - Jean Nouvel
Ground area - 1,787㎡
Foor area - 5,167㎡
Scale - F2, B3

Architect Tour

Materials of architectures

Stark contrasts between transparent glasses and rusted stainless-steel panels

MUSEUM 2’s main building materials are extra white glass of extreme transparency and rusted stainless steel panels.
Freely arranged exhibition boxes, which are projected from the glass surface, invoke substantial and unique responses because of the rusted stainless-steel panels.
Leeum architectural designer and corrosion specialist Mark Quinlan has done countless experiments to confirm that rust proof stainless-steel could be rusted, and has invented the “black-filmed stainless-steel” – the so-called “Black Patina”. The exhibition boxes, which are covered by “Black Patina”, form irregular geometric lines and, from the inside, shield exhibition spaces from the artwork; when viewed from the outside, they strengthen an impression that the building digs deep into the ground and then rises up again – because of the unique feeling of heaviness created by the metal.

Gabion Walls and Sunken Garden

Expressing the path of materials from nature by employing materials from construction sites

The concept of MUSEUM 2 is preserving naturally formed underground wall surfaces, which were created when digging the ground to build a foundation.
In other words, the building and the ground are facing each other because the building was pushed slightly into the margin of the basement that appeared when the ground was dug.
The space between the basement wall surface and the buildings is Sunken Garden. Sunken Garden opens upwardly and receives the same amount of sunlight as the overground. The outer surface of the basement wall was built by stacking up “gabion”, which contains crushed quarried stones from construction sites in iron frames.
These iron frames and quarried stones, along with trees which arose from Sunken Garden, create a minimalistic impression.
Audiences can casually detect imprints which were made by this building from the inside and outside of the building.
Jean Nouvel has emphasized the relationship between the ground and the building in hopes that others will recognize it and sympathize with the building’s aging.

Exhibition Space

A freely moving space” that accentuates the characteristics of contemporary art

The main exhibition hall was built as an open space without any supporting posts by employing post-tension building techniques.
“A freely moving space” was designed to offer exhibitions emphasizing the distinctiveness of contemporary art.
Further, dark exhibition boxes create a space in which light and dark are blended in harmony by allowing a ray of light to shine through the cracks of the ceiling.
The space in the middle of the floor, which is installed between two projected balcony areas visible from the first floor, is used to play videos and showcase visual media.
MUSEUM 2, designed to be flexible to the requirements of each exhibit by controlling light, offers audiences unique and diverse experiences.

Jean Nouvel

An Artist who Writes Poetry of the Future, with Architectural Images

Image of Jean Nouvel

"Please listen to the story of spaces which are as diverse as the branches and roots of trees."

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The French-born architect, Jean Nouvel, is a world-renowned figure not only in architecture but in many areas of culture and arts. Born in 1945, he got admitted to the prestigious École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris as the first in his class. His genius was already in the working at that young age.

"I put art in the architecture, and the architecture in the city."

ean Nouvel has been active in many areas of architecture. In 1976, he led the French architectural movement, Mars 1976; in 1980, he was in charge of planning for the arts programs in the Paris architectural biennale. In 1983, he was awarded the Knight of the Order of Arts and the Letters.
The Arab cultural center in Paris, completed in 1987, is among his masterpieces; it was received with raving reviews for its simplicity that seems to express the relationship between the Arab world and the European culture, and conflicts between tradition and modernity. His other works include the Cartier foundation in Paris, Lyong opera house, and the Andel building in Prague, which was completed recently. And the completion of his Agba Tower is just around the corner, which will be Barcelona’s next monumental landmark, along with Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia church.

Jean Nouvel has expressed in many of his works the contemporary and futuristic sentiment of cities. Frequently using glass, steel, and other “cold, hard” materials, he creates sharp and sophisticated images. His designs are oftentimes described as a massive work of art. He contends that architecture be raised to join the ranks of poetry, and designs his works as dictated by his instinct and intuition, like so many artists do. A hybrid of cutting-edge technology and contemporary art esthetics, his architecture is progressive as well as provocative.

Why he designs to his intuition, and why his architecture is brimming with poetic images is revealed in his own words:

“Luckily, there is no right answer or only answer in architecture. There are only countless pathetic answers and numerous exciting answers. It is enough, therefore, for an architect to come up with a “realizable” answer. But such an answer is oftentimes (surprisingly) too simple, or clear yet (paradoxically) undecipherable.”

Interview with the architect

Architect Interview

Jean Nouvelle

Geometric box-like units that compose the building are assembled each facing different directions.
Movable walls installed inside the building can create variations in display according to exhibition themes.

What did you feel when you decided to take the Leeum project? And what is the primary concept for the project?

I took on this project a long time ago. At that time, there were several other buildings in the lot. My initial concept was to take into consideration the relationship between the building and the topography, and to arrange the layout such that the building will be situated at the center of the dent in the lot, along with other structures.

I mean the dent by a space with long traces of the city, not a blank space or clean slate. That’s where I first started with this project, but as it became more concrete, I realized that the building must “shoot out” from the massive ground in order for it to look like it’s part of the topography. So that’s how I designed my building, and the visits to the museum will get the feeling that the structure has escaped a space deep down the Earth. Even the trees: they will be planted not where the entrance is located, but about 10 to 15 meters lower than the entrance level. The building is an embodiment of contrasts between horizontal lines and curves. It will also embody a wide variety of contours that resemble the contours of the lot. It may seem somewhat arbitrary, but the inner space to be created will be the one with many possibilities, depending on the differences and directions.

You’ve used a unique material: rusty stainless steel. For what purposes did you choose that material?

MUSEUM 2 is a building made of steel and glass.

And the steel I’ve used is quite ambiguous. It is not your ordinary oxidizing metal; it is neither rusted nor rusting. It may look like polished dark rock, and it is open to light and at the same time looks dark. I mean it is a material that is capable of expressing many different qualities; it is a material that at once exists and not exists. But I’m not particularly fond of using rusty metals for my work. I was merely looking for something with a hint of rocks or that implies the topography. Another important thing is the typically metallic sense of mass created by all those curves. There is glass in between the display boxes. The sense of non-existence implied by glass contrasts sharply with the sense of mass in the metal boxes. Their angular contours become softer as the lines move through the glass windows. I meant it that way so as to avoid the mechanical feeling. To me, architecture is a dialogue between existence and non-existence.

I find the gray metal boxes (display boxes) outside the building beautiful and impressive! How did you come up with such original idea? And how is that design related to the artworks displayed in the museum?

The display boxes are quite abstract in form, and they face different directions ― which makes them very expressive.

What I was trying to achieve was to make the boxes symbolize certain ideas. And the ideas will be realized by many different exhibit areas inside the museum.
Which will make up the “solid” parts of the building. But once inside the building, you’ll get the feeling that the geometric “solid” elements have embraced dynamic qualities. Depending on the characteristics of the displayed art, you can change the entire space inside by utilizing the walls or adding temporary installations. You can transform the museum into many different things, by, say, closing a few boxes and thus making an exhibition hall dark. What is intriguing here is the contrasting effects of light. The sun, as it creeps its way into the cracks above the works that are placed inside the dark boxes, creates a space where light and shadow is in harmony with each other. I mean, you’ll get the co-existence of light and darkness. I like spaces that have properly utilized the penetration of light, which is different from the general tendencies of art museums; your ordinary museums try to control light. I wanted to create a contrast between natural light and shadow, just like in the ancient architectures, although you could also offset two spaces by using artificial lights and verticals.I understand that you wanted the open space, created by drilling the earth, to be left as it was. What was

I understand that you wanted the open space, created by drilling the earth, to be left as it was. What was your intention behind that?

I wanted the building to look like it’s shot out of the earth, like a rock, and I wanted to create a feeling that it has always been there, and thus it claims its place in the earth.

Visitors to the museum will encounter a large pit. Surely, they will look down into it ― into the pit in the ground. And that changes everything, because such a building is completely different from a structure that just sits on the ground. You can feel the “root,” if you will. And my interest lied in such utilization of topographical contours, which will make you feel like the building is half above-ground and half underground, and the effects are contrasting. But the contrasting elements become one and they create a single entity. The visual image that the structure has “penetrated” into the earth is what makes it unique.

All three of the buildings in the museum have been created by master architects, and they are all very different from one another.
What kind of relationship or relationships do you see between them?

I see a story. You need to find out the story in order to understand the relationships between the buildings.

The story is the one that is particular to the museum, and it is the story of works of art there as well as the story of the entire architecture as the collection of all the art therein. So each of us architects has searched for his own ways of expressing that theme, while keeping in mind the designs of the other architects. In my case, the focus was placed on making sure the structure is “rooted” as deeply as possible, whereas Mario Botta emphasized the appearance of volume, and Rem Koolhass was playing the part of a “foothold,” which helps reveal what is hidden. So each of us has created a wonderful complementary relationship with the other two architects, although our styles are of course quite different from one another. I think the surrounding landscapes and the spaces in between the buildings will provide the necessary links.

Do you have any particular wish for the future of Leeum?

Although some of the works on display there will be part of the permanent collections, I’ve designed the museum as a sort of special, temporary exhibit hall.
What I was aiming for is a kind of new flexibility, which is different from your traditional sense of flexibility. An art museum that will showcase a variety of artworks should be a place that presents more than a meager collection of categorized art pieces.
The museum I wanted to create is a space where artworks are not collected and warehoused, but where a relationship between the works is created, where various expressive modes and media that are being used for the contemporary art are accepted and embraced. Designing an art museum is to me an adventure. And I take uniqueness very seriously, and thus I wanted to create something that is one of a kind. In fact, I wanted to design something that is so unique that there has never been anything quite like it before, ever; something that is the newest, that is existent yet non-existent. In such a place, viewers will feel the museum is larger than it actually is. The museum will not be a simple rectangular space, but it will be an endless labyrinth of a space. What I want for the Samsung Museum Leeum is that the curators will be able to experiment with different exhibition schemes, not limited by the constraints of space, because that is the new flexibility I mentioned, and the multi-functionality.