Minsuk Cho in Conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist

Serpentine Pavilion 7 June 2024, 12-1.30pm Free


To mark the opening of Archipelagic Void, the 23rd Serpentine Pavilion, Minsuk Cho was in conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director, Serpentine. The conversation explored the inspirations behind this year’s Pavilion, Cho’s approach to architecture, and the history of the commission.

Since 2000, Serpentine has invited internationally renowned and emerging architects to create their first completed structure in England. The Pavilion commission is an unmissable opportunity to experience the latest in architectural experimentation.

Seoul-based Korean architect Minsuk Cho and his firm Mass Studies have been selected to design the 23rd Serpentine Pavilion. Titled Archipelagic Void, the Pavilion is envisioned as a unique void characterised by a constellation of smaller, adaptable structures strategically positioned at the lawn adjacent to Serpentine South. This ensemble consists of five ‘islands’ surrounding a circular open space. Each ‘island’ is individually named and serves a different purpose including the Auditorium, the Gallery, the Library, the Play Tower and the Tea House.

Architect Biography

Minsuk Cho was born in Seoul and graduated from the Architectural Engineering Department of Yonsei University (Seoul, Korea) and the Graduate School of Architecture at Columbia University (New York, USA). After working in various firms, including OMA Rotterdam, he established Cho Slade Architecture in 1998 in New York City with partner James Slade. In 2003, he returned to Korea to open his own firm, Mass Studies.

Cho has garnered numerous accolades over the course of his career. Notable among these achievements are his first prize win in the 1994 Shinkenchiku International Residential Architecture Competition and the Architectural League of New York’s Young Architects Award in 2000 for his contributions at Cho Slade Architecture. He also received two U.S. Progressive Architecture Awards (Citations) in 1999 and 2003. His work with Mass Studies earned two nominations for the International Highrise Award (Deutsches Architekturmuseum-DAM), once as a finalist in 2008 for Boutique Monaco and again in 2010 for S-Trenue. The Korea Pavilion at the World Expo 2010 Shanghai was honoured with the Silver Award in the “Pavilion Design” category from the Bureau of International Expositions, accompanied by a Presidential Citation from the Korean government. Cho co-curated the exhibition “Named Design” at the Gwangju Design Biennale 2011, in collaboration with Anthony Fontenot under the direction of Seung H-Sang and Ai Weiwei. In June 2014, Minsuk Cho received the prestigious Golden Lion Award for the Best National Pavilion while serving as the commissioner and co-curator of the Korean Pavilion at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia. Cho was recognised further by receiving the Hwagwan Medal Order of Cultural Merit from the Korean government.

Cho’s work with Mass Studies had been presented in various exhibitions, including the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2004 and 2010, the Vitra Museum travelling exhibition “Open House” from 2006 to 2008, and a solo show titled “Before/After: Mass Studies Does Architecture” at the PLATEAU Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul in 2014. Mass Studies’ architectural designs and presentations are part of the collections and archives of the MoMA (New York), DAM (Frankfurt), Art Institute Chicago, and the Mokchon Architecture Archive (Seoul). Additionally, the 5th edition of Kenneth Frampton’s canonical “Modern Architecture: A Critical History” (2020, Thames & Hudson) highlights Cho and his work in the added South Korea chapter. Minsuk Cho is also an active lecturer and speaker, participating in symposia worldwide.

About Mass Studies

Mass Studies was founded in 2003 by Minsuk Cho in Seoul, Korea, as a critical investigation of architecture in the context of mass production, intensely over-populated urban conditions, and other emergent cultural niches that define contemporary society. Amid the many frictions defining spatial conditions in the twenty-first century, namely past vs. future, local vs. global, utopia vs. reality, and individual vs. collective, Mass Studies focuses on the operative complexity of these multiple conditions instead of striving for a singular, unified perspective. For each architectural project, which exists across a wide range of scales, Mass Studies explores issues such as spatial systems, building materials/techniques, and typological divergences to foster a vision that allows the discovery of new socio-cultural potential.

Representative works include the Pixel House, Missing Matrix, Bundle Matrix, Shanghai Expo 2010: Korea Pavilion, Daum Space.1, Tea Stone/Innisfree, Southcape, Dome-ino, the Daejeon University Residential College, Space K Seoul Museum, Pace Gallery Seoul, Vinegar Park: Choru and the Won Buddhism Wonnam Temple. Current in-progress projects include the new Seoul Film Center (Montage 4:5), the Danginri Cultural Space (Danginri Podium and Promenade), the Yang-dong District Main Street (Sowol Forest), and the Yeonhui Public Housing Complex. Recently completed projects include the restoration and extension of the French Embassy in Korea, the renovation and extension of the Osulloc Tea Museum, and the Osulloc Green Tea Factory.


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