Aesthetic delight in architecture is inherently subjective and Moon Hoon’s oeuvre is polarising.

There is something inherently beguiling in the playful client interactions he recounts and his refusal to take himself and the profession too seriously. However, the intricate magic of his concept sketches seems to be lost in the building’s execution.

From the perspective of an architect who’s education encouraged tectonic honesty and vernacular cues Hoon’s work is unsettling. Hoon clearly revels in the evidence of the human hand in the construction process, embracing imperfection and unknowns.  Something is surely lost in translation between the fantastical imagery of Hoon’s ‘doodles’ and the tangible follies he creates.

Hoon’s work resides on the cusp between art and architecture. Indeed his ‘process’ sketches are artworks in themselves that have been acquired by galleries in Europe. Arguably the buildings would have more merit if they remained as artworks, unconstrained by the limitations of architectural functionality.

It was understandably economically unfeasible to mechanically pivot the enormous wind funnel tower and install lasers in the privately commissioned home that Hoon calls ‘Windy Dream’. Should ‘Windy Dream’ have begun and ended as a piece of humorous and compelling video art? Would it be more powerful if conceived as a sculpture rather than a home? The client’s account would be valuable in framing an answer to these questions.

The aspects of Moon Hoon’s work that I find most interesting is the undercurrent of childhood memories and unsanctioned urges (both his own and his clients) that seem to fuel his creativity. References to such dark influences as eroticism, shamanism, apocalyptic scenarios and terrorism contrast against vaguely nostalgic memories of ruined mineshafts he explored with his father, folk art, traditional Korean building typologies and even the womb.

These are overlaid with a playful aesthetic arguably more akin to Archigram than Lebbeus Woods. The emotional response elicited would be more familiar as a response to a confronting piece of contemporary art than what one typically expects to encounter at an architectural talk.

To what extent is it useful to draw distinctions between architecture and art?

Emma Healy

Photo credit: Moon  Hoon. Photo by Judit Losh


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