Lot-Ek’s latest project, the Open School for the Anyang Public Art Project 2010 (APAP), is tethered to the ground rather than being built on it. This caution-yellow chevron pavilion lunges out over the southern bank of the Anyang River making as bold a statement as any building of its size could among monotonous and dreary development that is radically and hastily transforming South Korea’s urban peripheries.
The force of the building, designed as an open venue and exhibition space with artist studios and offices for the staff, is a dramatic step away from the now ubiquitous, even anaesthetizing, and cobbling of used shipping containers. No, this is less like an assembly of steel boxes and more of a corrugated ouroboros twisting back and forth on itself before ultimately returning to its beginning.
The meandering procession through the expanding and dividing internal space of this pavilion exists in direct opposition to the logic that governs the apat ama, the large residential buildings towering above. Lot-Ek’s pavilion evokes bold exploration and exuberant reflection but does not take itself too seriously. It does this not through a rigorous inquiry of connections and modifications, but through an informal approach – as in a game of twenty questions. This very consequential playfulness can be seen on several levels: the positioning of the pavilion over the river bank, the crooked and wrapped graphics, the viewing tubes aligned like eyelashes, the sliced-off sides, and the yellow underfoot and overhead. It all comes together like an outrageous yet gregarious relative at those otherwise somber family reunions.
The strategies Lot-ek uses in Open School exploits container technology not at the scale of the object itself but rather at the scale of the object’s components. This hick-cup between a parametric design strategy – at least conceptually – in the project’s development and it’s implementation actually works to the project’s advantage, taunting us to find something recognizable that was never really there. This is not just a pavilion constructed of shipping containers any more than one might say a traditional Korean meal is simply an assemblage of cabbages; there is more going on here.
By starting with the container as a conceptual building block instead of a literal one, its familiar materials, textures, spaces, and forms are stretched, interrupted, sheered, and bent to achieve an otherwise unexpected result. Combining this kind of plasticity with existing methods of container assembly produces a welcome and refreshing kind of post-industrial Mannerism.