I visited Leeum a couple days ago, and I wanted to share my experience there as well as pictures of the wonderful buildings that made up this museum. All of the pictures were taken by myself! 🙂 I hope you all enjoy this review.
“Leeum”, also known as the Samsung Museum of Art, was built in 2005. It was named ‘Leeum’ after the last name of Samsung’s former chairman, Gun Hee Lee. It is located in Seoul, Korea, so it was not hard for me to visit it. It is considered one of the most famous buildings built in Korea, since three very famous and globally well known architects have contributed to its design. In the picture below, you can see that there are three separate buildings. These three buildings make up one museum, and are actually connected altogether underground. (Please ignore the Hyatt Hotel in the background!)
Each building had different purposes. The building in the left was called the Samsung Childrens’ Education and Culture Center. There were several desks and chairs inside, and here I saw children come and learn various things as part of their field trip to this museum. The building in the middle displayed ancient art and pottery of Korea. On the other hand, the building in the very right displayed contemporary artwork from all over the world. Now, let’s look closer at each building! (or each part of the museum!)
The first building I will talk about is the Contemporary Art Museum. It was designed by Jean Nouvel. It consists of two floors above ground level and three floors below ground level. The construction material consisted of rusted stainless steel panels and transparent glass. I wanted to take pictures of the inside, but they did not let me take any pictures. 😦 Anyway, do you see those box-like structures sticking out of the building? If you see from the inside of the building, those boxes are actually mini rooms for displaying just a couple of artworks.
Since I have never asked the architect himself, I cannot say for sure, but I think the purpose of designing the interior like this was to help people focus on just a couple artworks. In a normal museum, all the artworks are displayed along the wall in a normal rectangular room. However, in this museum the box-like borders help you focus on the particular artwork you are looking at. Also, between the box-like structures there were windows of similar structures. I think the purpose of this was to let people think of anything as part of something that can be displayed and be seen as artwork. Looking out of these windows from the inside of this museum, I could see that there were houses in which people lived in, and roads where cars were passing by. I think Jean Nouvel wanted to make people notice that anything can be seen as artwork.
Another interesting thing about this museum was that it was located in the middle of a mountain. Therefore, the mountain had to be cut down. Instead of creating a cement border to hide the cut down mountain, the architects decided to leave the side of the mountain “naked” and exposed to the people. I think the purpose behind this was to make people feel close to nature.
This is the passage way that led to the outside of this building. This was the very last part you could see in the contemporary art museum. Instead of making this just a plain and boring staircase, they divided the altitudes of the stairs and displayed an artwork on the wall. I felt like even the building itself was artistic enough to be considered as a displayed artwork. It was as if I was walking in an artwork itself.
The second building I will be talking about is the Ancient Art and Pottery Museum, which was designed by Mario Botta. There were four floors above ground level and three floors below ground level. Again, they did not let me take pictures of the artworks and pottery. 😦 The design of this building was inspired by pottery as well as walls of Korean castles. The round part of this building is supposed to resemble and represent Korean pottery, and the top of the rectangular portion of this building is supposed to represent the ancient Korean castles. Since this museum focused on displaying ancient Korean artwork, I think the design well-suited the function.
The construction material include terracotta bricks that are connected to make horizontal belts around the building. Terracotta bricks composed of soil created a delicate shade.
This was probably my favorite part of Leeum. This is actually a spiral stairway inside the Ancient Arts and Pottery Museum. It is situated right in the middle of the building, so if you were to ride a helicopter and look at it from above, there would be a huge hole in the middle. I thought it was interesting how even though the outside clearly represented Korean culture, this stairway pretty much looked like a European design. Because of this stairway in the middle, the pottery and artworks were displayed along the rest of the building, in a donut-shaped space on each floor.
The last building I want to talk about is the Samsung Children’s Education and Culture Center. This was designed by Rem Koolhaas, and consists of two floors above ground level and three floors below ground level. I felt like this building looked very modern, but did not have a specific unique characteristic unlike the other two buildings. I think this was done on purpose so that this building would serve as a component that would put everything together. Since the other two buildings were so distinct and unique in design, unless the third would bring them all together, Leeum would not look like a single museum.
This was actually the inside of this building. It was interesting to see another building inside the building itself. This is the “black box”, and abstract art as well as multimedia art (videos, sculptures, abstract, etc.) were displayed in it.
Outside the building, there was a small garden with giant spider sculptures. I took a photo since it looked interesting.
As I headed home, I saw this sign that I haven’t been able to see when I entered this museum. If you look at it from sideways, there are three separate layers that represent each building that make up this museum. I think this was a brilliant idea! Also, after I read the pamphlet I realized that this museum is supposed to tie the past, present, and future together as represented by the separate parts. The contemporary art museum represented future with its futuristic design, the childrens’ education and culture center represented present with the common glass-finish, and the ancient art and pottery museum obviously represented the past.
It was very fun and interesting to visit this museum! I hope you all get a chance to visit it if you ever get to visit Korea, and especially if you are already living in Korea! 🙂 Entrance tickets are 10,000 KRW for adults and 6,000 KRW for students.
Visit its homepage for more information 🙂