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The Art Space as Matrix: Kirsten Schemel's Futurist museum for Nam June Paik in Korea


Last year, the German architect Kirsten Schemel won the international competition for the Nam June Paik Museum in Korea; planned are spectacular rooms dedicated to the artist's work. Through June 9, Schemel's extraordinary architectural design can be viewed in the context of Paik's exhibition Global Groove 2004 in the Deutsche Guggenheim.



Kirsten Schemel: Museum for Nam June Paik in Korea, 2003,
cross section, © Kirsten Schemel

The Deutsche Guggenheim in Berlin is currently presenting Nam June Paik's homage to media art with the exhibition Global Groove 2004, which harks back to the title of his legendary video Global Groove from 1973. In the museum's foyer, visitors can also gain insight into an impressive project directly connected to the life work of the Korean-born artist - the construction of a museum building designed to house Nam June Paik's video installations. Last year, the Gyeonggi Cultural Foundation in South Korea held an international architecture competition for a Nam June Paik Museum in the city Yong-In, which is to be dedicated to the work of the world-famous artist and provide additional space for revolving exhibitions as well as facilities for multi-media communication, research, and artists' studios. The First Prize of the competition was awarded to a German participant - the Berlin-based architect Kirsten Schemel, who was not only awarded for her unusual design, but has also been commissioned with the project's realization.


Kirsten Schemel: Museum for Nam June Paik in Korea, 2003,
main facade - view from the street, ©Kirsten Schemel

The various spacial planes of the future structure can be studied in computer-simulated views hanging in the entrance area of the exhibition Global Groove 2004. NJP_Museum_Matrix, the title of Schemel's design, refers to the complex construction the architect has developed especially for this project. Taking a grid model as its point of departure, the future museum is conceived to wrap over the existing grounds like a Matrix that incorporates landscape formations on the building site into the museum's architecture.

Thus, the curved contours of the surrounding forest determine lines in the blueprint. The architecture grows, in a sense, out of the ground and becomes part of the natural park surrounding it.


Kirsten Schemel: Museum for Nam June Paik in Korea, 2003,
interior view - exhibition hall, ©Kirsten Schemel

While the studio, work, and administrative rooms are situated in the front part of the building, the actual museum is in the back part facing the forest; it consists of a freely-flowing, uninterrupted exhibition space entirely without artificial light. Schemel's aim is a radical one; in her design, the boundaries between interior and exterior become blurred. Instead of a flat surface, the museum floor follows the irregularities of the ground like a carpet, curving up and down over existing hills and depressions. Schemel's interior resembles a landscape, a world within a world modulated only by the colorful light of the video projections and the daylight shining in through the roof. The various zones of shadow that arise as light falls into the so-called Light Matrix, the Futuristic-looking roof of the museum, are transformed into factors that contribute towards defining the space, making the museum the ideal setting for Paik's electronic and projection images.


Kirsten Schemel: Museum for Nam June Paik in Korea, 2003,
outside view onto the roof, ©Kirsten Schemel

The entrance front of the museum also expresses the special nature of the design. The building's main facade extends along the street in a monumental length of 250 meters, offering, as an "oscillating wall of light," a preview of what awaits the viewer in the building's interior. The uniqueness of the building's outer shell, however, is due to the roof, which extends generously into the landscape, lending the building its inimitable character. The architect's drawing shows a view of a silvery shining surface situated in a forest clearing and is reminiscent of a Futurist version of a romantic landscape image. Thus, as a reflective "Lake of Light," the museum architecture, which conceals a "Space of Shadow" inside, becomes the artistic extension of the nature surrounding it, offering, almost as an afterthought, a contemporary architectonic interpretation of the modern landscape garden.
Maria Morais