Today, the Korean Peninsula provides a striking example of a post-war polarization: two opposite political and economical systems, constantly presented in contrast/conflict by the global media, that still maintain an intricate, complicated relationship. Architecture’s role in this polarization was instrumental. North Korea sought to represent the aspirations of a new communist nation within a context devastated after the war -- a tabula-rasa from which adaptations of modernism could appear. In South Korea, fast economic growth bred a form of modernization that represented the ideals of a globalized world.
These distinct absorptions of modernity, and the relation between the two neighboring nations, are represented in Korea’s Pavilion in an exhibition called Crow’s Eye View, winner of the Gold Lion at the Venice Biennale 2014. The dense exhibition, commissioned and curated by Minsuk Cho together with Hyungmin Pai and Changmo Ahn, used every corner of the pavilion to represent this subject. The curators invited a multidisciplinary group of architects, urbanists, poets, writers, artists, photographers, film-makers, curators and collectors to demonstrate (to best of their availability, since official cooperation with North Korean institutions proved impossible) the architectural intersections and divisions between North and South Korea.
Recognized by the judges as “research in action,” Crow’s Eye View provided an invaluable addition to a discourse which has been predominantly carried by Western-centric narratives. And it is precisely this that, according to rumors, made it Koolhaas’ favorite pavilion.