Movements in Contemporary Korean Architecture, 1987-1997
In Architecture as Movement, Modern Architecture in South Korea, 1987-97, National Museum of Modern and
Contemporary Art in Korea, pp. 12-29 (In English); “한국 현대건축 운동의 흐름, 1987-1997,” <종이와 콘크리트: 한국 현대건축 운동 1987-1997> , 국립현대미술관, 2017.12, pp.32-41 (In Korean); also in Papers and Concrete: Modern Architecture in Korea 1987-1997, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Korea, September, 2017, pp.10-17. (exhibition catalogue in Korean and English); The exhibition, Papers and Concrete: Modern Architecture in Korea 1987-1997, was held at National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul Gallery, 1 September 2017 - 18 February 2018.
* The essay was written in Korean and translated in English by the MMCA.
South Korean architecture has been drawing attention on a global level since the mid-2000s, when international exchanges through architecture exhibitions, biennials, forums, and competitions drastically increased. In particular, following the 2008 global financial crisis, Korea’s midsize urban architecture has seen great improvement in both the private and public sectors. The world began taking note of Korean architects who had produced experimental works while demonstrating flexible and intellectual attitudes. Despite these advancements, the historical background and evolution of Korean architecture remain underexamined outside the East Asia region. Since about a century ago, the West has perceived China as the root of the East Asian civilization and Japan as a leading Asian country that successfully achieved modernization by integrating Western modernity into its traditional culture. Korea’s cultural identity, however, is often mistakenly interpreted as a “subclassified” category within Chinese and Japanese cultures. When Japan was accepting the influences of modernism, Korea was under Japanese colonial rule. After it was liberated, Korea suffered through the Korean War in the midst of the Cold War era. Then, from the 1960s to the 1980s, South Korea lived through almost thirty years of dictatorial regimes.
The exhibition Papers and Concrete: Modern Architecture in Korea 1987–1997 endeavors to revisit features of Korean architecture starting approximately thirty years ago, in 1987. That year was a major turning point in Korea’s political history: The June Democracy Movement led to the passage of an amendment to the country’s Constitution that limited presidential terms to a single five-year period, known as the “87 System,” which has been maintained until today. Meanwhile, it was also when the second architecture and construction boom took place. In the three years after 1988, the Sixth Republic of Korea provided its citizens with two million apartment units and built the first new towns. Bundang and Ilsan are prime examples. The rate of investment for construction to GDP increased by 19 percent in 1989 and by 20 percent in the early 1990s. This was a time when the quantity of construction surpassed the quality of the architecture. This was a time when the papers were buried under concrete.
Around 1987, three different movements emerged in the field of Korean architecture. The first movement questioned the social role of architecture in the turbulent social context. The second movement was led by study groups that tried to seek individual architectural language and identity. Lastly, the third movement aimed to reform unreasonable conventions and policies and to protect architects’ rights as professionals. These three developments may not have had the characteristics of most “movements,” which usually comprise a clear ideology and strategy, specific practices and outcomes, and historical influences and efficacies. Nevertheless, they had the characteristics necessary to define them as such, since they escaped the conventional and formal solidarities and networks based on school and regional affiliations. Notably, these three activities were intertwined with a generational shift in the field of architecture.
In the dimensions of politics, society, economic background, and the shift of generations, modern Korean architecture can be divided into four phases: The first phase occurred during the approximately forty-year period from the 1948 establishment of the Republic of Korea to 1987. The second phase refers to the decade from 1987 until the International Monetary Fund (IMF) crisis in 1997. The third phase took place over the course of the decade from 1998 until the global financial crisis in 2008. Finally, the fourth phase happened during the period from 2009 to 2017. Korea’s economic growth was so compact and social changes were so rapid that the rather short seventy-year timeframe can be divided into four different eras or generations. The first generation is still extant, while the second, third, and fourth generations coexist and exchange influences with one another. The second-generation architects formed the main axis of the three aforementioned movements that started around 1987. The first-generation architects, who were mostly born during the Japanese colonial era, laid the foundation for modern Korean architecture in the 1960s and 1970s. The three movements grew out of criticism and developed out of the first generations’ activities.
In October 1987, the Young Architects Association declared that it would engage with social issues by addressing practical agendas related to housing, urbanism, and the environment that had not been considered within the purview of architecture. Architects under the country’s oppressive military dictatorial regimes could not even propose the subject of architecture design for the urban poor, a proposition that even now, thirty years later, carries the connotation of being “leftist.” The Young Architects Association’s activities were, indeed, regarded as part of a new movement because its members were the first to question the position of architecture in Korea’s turbulent society and to call for practical actions from the architectural community for the future. In retrospect, the group’s goals were unrealistic, and its actual practices were very limited at a time when most construction projects were led by the government. Nevertheless, its attempts to address problems and seek realistic alternatives went beyond the first generation’s activities.
However, the Young Architects Association could not continue through the early 1990s. As explained by Hahm In-sun, the collective’s third co-chairman, the association’s members had two different visions for its future direction; while the majority of “petit-bourgeois architects” wanted it to remain just as a professional group, the minority wanted it to become a progressive power in Korean architecture. The discordance between the two sides led to the association’s dissolution. Nonetheless, the collective provided the foundation upon which diverse new groups such as the Architects Association for the People (1992), the Research Group for Architectural Movements (1990), and the Research Group for Urban Architecture of Korea (1992) were established. The Young Architects Association referenced progressive architectural and critical theories, including Marxism, the history of the Russian Revolution, Soviet Constructivist architecture, and the critical theories of the Frankfurt School, which had been banned throughout the previous decades. Despite its short-lived activities, the association’s attempts to integrate progressive theories into reality need to be reevaluated. Their approach to unraveling the problems of Korean architecture here and now, in particular, is still valuable and efficacious. Today, the Young Architects Association can lead us to ask ourselves what the social roles of architecture and architects are.
The 4.3 Group, established in 1990 by fourteen architects in their thirties and forties, was another short-lived organization that could not continue beyond the early 2000s, but its impact was so enormous that it should be re-illuminated today. In the midst of a developmental era overwhelmed by concrete, members of the 4.3 Group challenged the essence of architecture and attempted to identify themselves as independent architects. Although they did not explicitly share common ideologies or practices, they sought to directly connect their work to Western modernism and tried to establish their own paths.
Korean architecture in the 1960s and 1970s, at the peak of the first-generation architects’ activities, was characterized by two conflicting stances. On the one hand, architects attempted to find the root of Korean architecture in precolonial traditional architecture, while removing any remnants of Japanese culture from their architecture design. On the other hand, as latecomers to architecture within East Asia, they wanted to become studious followers of modernism. The development of different incompatible architectural approaches was an inevitable result of the disconnection and disruption that occurred throughout the modern and contemporary history of Korea. Moreover, proper conditions were not provided to resolve or overcome such conflicts.
In the late 1980s, most first-generation architects retreated from the field. Throughout this period, the 1986 Seoul Asian Games and the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics invigorated Korean society on the one hand, and the democratic movement continued to grow fiercer on the other hand. During those years, the epitomic figures of the first generation, Korean architects Kim Swoo Geun (1931–1986) and Kim Chung-up (1922–1988) died. The ebb of the first generation, in a sense, meant that the second generation had lost its protection. The new generation of architects started to import and rapidly disseminate an overwhelming number of diverse theories, trends, and styles through magazines. In particular, postmodernism, which had been imported without a proper explanation of its theoretical background, spread in a superficial form and became integrated into commercial capital.
For the second-generation architects who had witnessed these phenomena, establishing theoretical ground was crucial. For them, their social responsibility to the urban poor and solidarity with progressive parties were less important than defining the essence of architecture. They believed that this was how Korean architects would stand independently, which was also a matter of survival. In this atmosphere, many second-generation architects agreed that they would have to directly observe and study Western modernism. In other words, they yearned for first-hand experiences instead of indirectly learning from the first generation.
However, except for a select few, most second-generation architects were only able to gain access to modern architecture after 1989, when overseas travel was legally allowed for the first time. That was less than merely thirty years ago. It was also the year of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Tiananmen Square protests. The 4.3 Group explored its desires and aspirations amid such internal and external tumult. Kim In-cheurl, who was practically the spokesperson of the 4.3 Group, summarized its core activities as “self-studying, re-learning, and verifying.” 
After traveling to Europe, the members often compared or equated their situations at that time to the European fin de siècle. Four years later, the solidarity of the 4.3 Group started to loosen. Some state that it was the result of the members’ diverging opinions on the issue of redirecting the group’s aim from conducting their own studies to educating others. Regardless of the truth behind these claims, its disintegration was probably a natural consequence of the group’s diminishing significance and reputation as a “study group” for independent architects.
Nonetheless, why does the 4.3 Group continue to be mentioned, and why does it still have an impact on Korean architecture? Among many explanations, one of the most substantial and persuasive reasons is that members of the 4.3 Group are still actively working in the field and hold the most powerful influence in architectural communities in Korea. The transition of the 4.3 Group was different from that of the Young Architects Association; the members of the association followed a clear ideology and practice, but they developed their own unconventional definitions of “architecture” and “architect,” and were forgotten by the younger generation of architects.
The paradox of the Young Architects Association and the 4.3 Group brings to mind the hope and despair discussed by Reyner Banham (1922–1988). Banham looked at modernism through the lens of the Machine Age and conceived of it as a contradictory amalgam of academicism and Futurism.  He had anticipated that Futurism, which integrated technology and design, would win over academic tradition, which focuses on lineages of artistic trends. Banham found an alternative to this model in structures capable of being disassembled and reassembled, such as Buckminster Fuller (1895–1983)’s Dymaxion house, which is shaped like a jellyfish, works like a Mongolian yurt, and he thought could be used to overcome the failure of the first Machine Age. However, the architecture of the West progressed in a direction contrary to what Banham had anticipated. Architects were well aware of how powerless the technology would become without aesthetic and semantic power. They perceptively acknowledged that culture and the media had grown even more influential within the capitalist system. This was proven by the victory of academicism, which signaled the superiority of institutional academia and the discourse that it produced. Having deviated from Banham’s expectations, futurist design is now embodied in the structures of corporate offices that maximize the utilitarian value of technology, organization, and capital, and also in those of consulting offices that highlight architectural elements and technologies. In this sense, Lee Jong-woo’s claim that the 4.3 Group played the role of “positioning itself within conflicting structures between economic logic and socio-cultural reality” is precise and appropriate. 
It might be more reasonable and meaningful to compare the historical situations of the 4.3 Group to those of Japanese Metabolism, which emerged in the 1960s, than to compare them to the fin de siècle of Europe that the group had originally referenced. In the 1960s, following the successive deaths of the masters of modern architecture, diverse new styles and trends appeared in the world of architecture. At that moment, Japanese Metabolism was significant enough to draw attention from the West. To Western eyes, the gigantic and organic Metabolist structures, reminiscent of plugged-in capsules, must have looked like a form of exotic, Asian Futurism just like the Japanese super robot Mazinger Z. Banham even took the term “megastructure” from the Metabolists’ discourse and published a book titled Megastructure: Urban Futures of the Recent Past (1976). Westerners might have regarded Metabolism as a cosmopolitan approach to a modern agenda that was not confined to Japanese national and cultural identity.
Whereas the 4.3 Group pursued solidarity open to all regardless of school or regional affiliations, the Metabolists were an exclusive group centered around the University of Tokyo and followed a hierarchical organization unique to Japanese culture. This convention is still at work in the Japanese architecture community. Nonetheless, the Metabolists’ attempts coincided with the objectives of the postwar reconstruction of Japan, and they were bolstered by the nation’s rapid industrial development. The stark difference between the two collectives—Korea’s 4.3 Group, which sought a breakthrough by looking at the Modernism of the previous century, and Japan’s Metabolism, which proposed an East Asian Futurism to the Western world—essentially stems from the time differences between their respective encounter with and acceptance of Western modernity. The thirty-year gap between when Japanese architects issued a manifesto to the world in 1960 and when Korean architects began their trips to study modern architecture in 1991 was immense and deep.
In the mid-1990s, the energy of the social movements led by the Young Architects Association diminished, and the individual members of the 4.3 Group returned to their busy studios. During this period, Korean society confronted another internal change: in 1993, the Civilian Government took over, and neoliberalism permeated every corner of society. Ironically, the ephemeral existence of the two movements is closely intertwined with the explosive growth of the construction market, as there were too many construction projects to leave any time to discuss the social responsibilities or the essence of architecture. Consequently, the underlying roles of “architecture” and “architect” became even further distorted.
In this situation, some architects raised their voices to redefine which responsibilities and ethics professional architects should possess. The Architects Association for the Future, which was established in 1993, was on the frontlines, arguing for the removal of ineffective and unreasonable policies and systems, such as the separation of design and construction supervision, adding on design fees, and architect licensing examination. The Architects Association for the Future also provided a middle ground between theory and practice, bridging the wide gap between participatory movements and artistic practices. It offered an opportunity for architects in their mid- to late forties, who had been keeping their distance from the Young Architects Association and the 4.3 Group, to gather. The most significant achievement of the Architects Association for the Future was the establishment of the Seoul School of Architecture (sa) in 1997, which proposed that change in the field of architecture had to start with education. Kim Young-sub, a key member of the Architects Association for the Future, reminisced that the Seoul School of Architecture was, in fact, an extension and transformation of the Architects Association for the Future.
The Seoul School of Architecture offered a local platform for the third generation of architects who had studied overseas and acquired international work experience. As the institution’s first principal, Joh Sung-yong, had emphasized, the school boasted of an “education for architects of a new era, not an education of architecture,” therefore mounting a considerable blow to the existing college and university system.  In particular, the school’s summer workshop, which was held twelve times in eleven years since 1998, was so influential that architecture students regarded the workshop as a prerequisite for aspiring architects. For young practitioners, tutoring at the Seoul School of Architecture summer program was a way to prove their qualifications and begin their careers. Although the school did not become a mainstream academic institution, it demonstrated how education can have a far-reaching impact.
For the most part, the length of the typical architecture program was extended from four years to five, and architectural accrediting programs were implemented to enable international exchange and to meet architectural standards under the WTO system. On the other hand, these changes were also largely affected by the new competitions and inspirations evoked by third-generation architects, mainly from the Seoul School of Architecture. In fact, after the transition to a five-year architectural education program, architects with abundant local and overseas experience moved their bases from studios to colleges and universities. Accordingly, the previously engineering- and research-based approach to architectural education, which was heavily influenced by the Japanese system, was transformed into a new type of training.
On December 3, 1997, Deputy Prime Minister Lim Chang-ryul signed an agreement on the relief bailout, witnessed by Michel Camdessus, Managing Director of IMF. For Korea, it was a day of indignity, accepting an economic trusteeship. Thereafter, the nation went through economic restructuring, a harsh time during which, people would recall, “The Korean economy was divided into pre- and post-IMF periods.”  Banks and corporations closed down, and the rate of unemployment soared drastically. The South Korean banking crisis froze not only the construction industry, but also the architects who had been actively working in the field. Numerous construction projects were stopped or canceled.
Fortunately enough, the economic disaster did not last long. The forty years of the construction boom succumbed to a setback temporarily during the 1997 IMF crisis; however, the turn of the twenty-first century bore witness to its revival, as large-scale financial capital and public capital entered the construction market. Until before the crisis, financial capital had not directly reached the construction industry. Architecture and construction projects had followed conventional processes: client commissions, architect designs, and construction company builds. After the 2000s, however, this traditional process was no longer viable. Financial capital industry, which was stronger than ever after the restructuring, became aware of the profitability of construction businesses and jumped into the market. Their investment in project financing enormously expanded the general construction market. During this boom, new business models and customs—such as project financing, Build-Transfer-Lease (BTL) models, turnkey-based systems, and construction management—all settled in the market in contorted ways.
The government and politicians also began to get involved. After the IMF banking crisis, the government started developing diverse large-scale projects. Both central and local governments used extensive construction and architecture ventures for their own purposes: the former under the name of boosting the economic downturn in the private sector, the latter as a way of achieving political power. In 2002, Lee Myung-bak, who was mayor of Seoul from 2002 to 2006, began the New Town Project, which encompassed redeveloping and reconstructing the city. His initiative contributed to creating a construction boom in other private sectors as well. The following mayor of Seoul, Oh Se-hoon, who held the position from 2006 to 2011, declared cultural business as his primary policy and utilized architecture as a means of increasing the city’s economic and brand competitiveness. Since then, having recognized the political and economic power of design, politicians and businesspeople have invited famous foreign architects to Seoul and granted them extensive opportunities, sufficient design fees, and the right to participate in the process of construction—privileges that had hardly been given to local architects. During these projects, architecture offices became polarized between ultra-large and ultra-small establishments. In this restructured ecology of the architecture market, architecture companies of different sizes played in their own separate leagues.
During the period of economic recovery, the second-generation architects were dormant, taking time to reflect on themselves and set up a new direction. The third-generation architects used this moment to concentrate on self-improvement in order to survive. It was in the mid-2000s that South Korean architecture started to grab the world’s attention: the third-generation architects, many of whom had studied overseas and gained experiences in the international field, returned to South Korea and began to coexist and compete with second-generation architects who had established stable positions in the country. Korean architects had finally transformed themselves from passive learners into contemporaries engaging in communication and exchange with their colleagues around the world.
 This essay is a revised compilation of excerpts from the following two articles: Kim Sung Hong, “How to View the Movements of Korean Architecture,” Architecture and Society, no. 25 (2013): 10–27; and Kim Sung Hong, “The Construction and Changes in the Private Buildings in Seoul,” in The Two Thousand Year History of Seoul, vol. 35 (Seoul: Seoul Historiography Institute, 2016), 273–329. Quotation marks are not used for the direct quotes and excerpted paragraphs in order to maintain the flow of writing.
 Shunya Yoshimi, “Asian Protocols, Defying Verbalizaion,” in Muntadas: Asian Protocols, Similarities, Differences and Conflict, Japan, China, Korea (Tokyo: 3331 Arts Chiyoda, 2016), 38.
 Kim In-cheurl, “4.3 Group,” Architecture and Society, no. 25 (December 2013): 127.
 Reyner Banham, Theory and Design in the First Machine Age (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1960), 337.
 Lee Jong-woo, “The Architect, Profane as well as Sacred” (symposium paper, “Korean Architecture in the Transitional Period and the 4.3 Group” Seoul, 2012), 43–48.
 Joh Sung-yong, “Architectural education in the new era, sa” Architecture and Society, no. 25 (December 2013): 136.
 “1997 IMF Bailout Request,” Kyunghyang Shinmun, November 20, 2008.
한국 현대건축 운동의 흐름, 1987-1997
전시도록 <종이와 콘크리트: 한국 현대건축 운동 1987-1997> pp.10-17
국립현대미술관 서울관, 2017.9.1.-2018.2.18
2000년대 중반부터 한국건축은 전시회, 비엔날레, 포럼, 강연, 현상설계 등 국제교류가 폭발적으로 늘어나면서 해외의 주목을 받기 시작했다. 특히 2008년 세계금융위기 이후 중규모 도시건축의 질이 민간과 공공영역에서 전반적으로 높아지고 있다. 실험적인 작품과 더불어 지적이며 유연한 태도를 갖고 있는 한국 건축가들에 대한 관심도 커졌다. 하지만 한국 건축의 역사적 배경과 변화 과정은 동아시아 밖에서 여전히 베일에 싸여있다. 100여 년 전부터 중국은 동아시아 한자 문명의 원류로, 일본은 서구의 근대를 전통과 결합하는데 성공한 동아시아의 선두주자로 서양에 알려졌다. 반면 한국의 문화적 정체성은 중국과 일본의 ‘하위 범주(sub-classification)’로 오독되기도 한다. 일본이 모더니즘을 받아들이고 소화할 때, 한국은 일본의 식민지였다. 그 후 냉전의 각축장에서 한국전쟁을 맞았고, 30여 년간의 군사독재를 겪었다.
‘종이와 콘크리트전(展)’은 지금으로부터 30년 전으로 시계를 돌려 한국건축의 지형도를 되짚어보고자 기획되었다. 6월 민주항쟁이 촉발되었고, ‘87체제’로 불리는 대통령 5년 단임제가 도입되는 등 1987년은 한국 현대정치사의 변곡점이었다. 한편으로는 건설산업의 2차 활황기이기도 했다. 제6공화국은 1988년부터 3년 만에 주택2백만 호를 공급했고, 분당, 일산 등 1기 신도시를 건설했다. 건설투자가 국내총생산(GDP)에 차지하는 비중은 1989년 19%로 증가했고, 1990년대 초반에는 20%을 넘어섰다. 건축의 질이 건설의 양에 압도당한 시대였다. 종이가 콘크리트에 묻혔던 시대였다.
1987년을 전후로 한국 건축계에 세 갈래의 움직임이 일어났다. 첫째, 격동하는 사회 안에서 건축의 사회적 역할을 묻고 실천을 선언한 움직임이다. 둘째, 건축가 개인의 건축언어를 찾고 홀로서기 위한 학습 모임이었다. 셋째, 불합리한 관행과 제도를 개선하고 건축사(士)/건축가(家)의 권익을 보호하는 움직임이었다. 세 갈래의 움직임이 뚜렷한 이념과 전략, 구체적인 실천과 결과물, 당대와 후대에 미친 영향과 파급효과 등 ‘운동’의 충분조건을 모두 갖추었다고 보긴 어렵다. 그럼에도 불구하고, 학연과 지연에 바탕을 두었던 기계적 연대를 탈피한 집단적 움직임이었다는 점에서 ‘운동’의 필요조건은 갖추었다고 할 수 있다. 특히 건축계의 세대교체와 세 운동은 맞물려 있다.
정치, 사회, 경제적 배경과 세대교체의 틀에서 한국 현대건축을 네 시기로 구분할 수 있다. 첫째, 1948년 정부수립부터 1987까지 약 40년간의 1기, 둘째, 1987년부터 외환위기를 맞은 1997년까지 10년간의 2기, 셋째, 1998년부터 세계금융위기가 닥친 2008년까지 10년간의 3기, 넷째, 2009년부터 현재까지 4기이다. 70년이라는 짧은 기간을 네 시기 혹은 세대로 구분할 만큼 한국 성장은 압축적이었고 변화는 급격했다. 현재도 1세대가 생존해있고, 2세대, 3세대, 4세대가 영향을 주고받으며 공존하고 있다. 1987년 전후에 태동했던 세 갈래 운동의 주축은 2세대 건축인들이었다. 1세대는 일제강점기에 태어나 1960~70년대 한국 현대건축의 기초를 닦은 세대다. 세 운동은 1세대에 대한 비판과 각성이라는 공통지점에서 출발했다.
1987년 10월 청년건축인협의회(약칭 청건협)는 당시 건축 영역이라고 여기지 않았던 주거, 도시, 환경 문제를 실천 강령으로 내걸고 현실 참여를 선언했다. 도시빈민을 위한 설계는 30년이 지난 지금에도 ‘좌파적’인 것으로 서슬이 시퍼렇던 군사독재 시대에는 감히 꺼낼 수 없는 내용이었다. 청건협은 1990년대 초반을 넘기지 못하고 단명으로 끝났지만, 민족건축인협의회(민건협, 1992, 1995), 건축운동연구회(건운연, 1990), 한국도시건축연구원(도건연, 1992)과 같은 다양한 갈래의 운동에 불을 지핀 시발점이 되었다. 마르크시즘, 러시아혁명사, 구성주의, 소비에트 건축, 프랑크푸르트학파의 비판이론 등 금기시 되었던 진보적 건축론들이 그들의 책상위에 놓였었다.
청건협과 마찬가지로 2000년대 초반을 넘기지 못하고 사그라졌지만 1990년 14명의 30, 40대 건축가들이 결성한 4.3 그룹(약칭 4.3)은 27년이 지난 지금까지 재조명될 만큼 건축계에 영향을 미쳤다. 4.3은 ‘콘크리트’가 압도하는 개발시대에 건축의 본질을 묻고 건축가로서 홀로서기를 시도한 최초의 연대였다. 4.3 구성원들은 공통된 이념과 방법론을 표방하지는 않았지만, ‘서구 모더니즘과의 직접 접속’과 ‘자신의 좌표 설정’이라는 의지를 갖고 있었다.
1960~70년대 한국 건축계는 두 가지의 상호모순적인 태도를 보였다. 첫째, 일본이 남긴 문화적 잔재를 지우고, 일제강점기 이전의 전통건축에서 유전자를 찾고자 했다. 둘째, 동아시아의 후발주자로서 모더니즘의 충실한 학습자가 되고자 했다. 이처럼 양립할 수 없는 태도는 단절과 불연속의 한국 근현대사에서 피할 수 없는 진통이었다. 하지만 이를 해결할 여건은 주어지지 않았다. 극소수를 제외한 1, 2세대 건축가들이 모더니즘을 대면할 수 있었던 때는 해외여행이 전면 자유화된 1989년 이후였다. 유럽에서는 베를린 장벽이 무너지고, 중국에서는 천안문 사태가 일어난 해였다. 4.3의 갈증과 갈망은 이런 국내외적 변화 속에서 분출되었다.
1990년대에 들어서면서 청건협을 비롯한 단체의 예봉은 무뎌졌고, 4.3 그룹의 구성원들은 각자 분주한 일터로 돌아갔다. 1993년 문민정부가 들어섰고 신자유주의가 사회전반에 스며들었다. 단명으로 끝난 두 운동은 역설적으로 건설시장의 폭발적 성장과 맞닿아 있다. 건축의 사회적 역할과 본질을 논하기에 일감이 도처에 너무 많았던 것이다. 그러나 이 과정에서 ‘건축’과 ‘건축가’의 본질은 더욱 왜곡되었다. 이런 상황에서 전문가로서의 책무와 직업윤리를 바로 세우자는 목소리가 터져 나왔다. 1993년 발족한 ‘건축과미래를준비하는모임(건미준)’은 설계-감리 분리, 설계비 덤핑, 건축사시험과 같은 불합리한 제도와 관행을 깨는데 앞장섰다. 건미준은 현실참여운동과 예술운동의 넓은 진폭사이에 공유 지점을 만들어 냈다. 청건협과 4.3그룹에 한 발짝 떨어져 있던 40대 중후반 건축가들이 응집하는 계기가 되었다. 무엇보다 건축계 변화의 핵심을 ‘교육’에 두고, 1997년 서울건축학교(sa)를 개교했다는 데 건미준의 의미가 있다. 서울건축학교는 해외에서 공부하고 실무를 경험한 3세대가 활동할 수 있는 플랫폼 역할을 했다.
1997년 IMF 외환위기로 40여 년간 지속되어온 개발과 건설 붐은 잠시 주춤했지만, 2000년대 들어서서 대규모 금융자본과 공공자본이 건설시장에 들어오면서 다시 탄력을 받았다. 프로젝트파이낸싱사업(PF), 민간투자유치사업(BTL), 일괄계약(턴키), 건설관리사업(CM)과 같은 제도가 기형적으로 자리를 틀었다. 디자인의 힘을 파악한 정치인과 관료들은 세계적 스타건축가를 초청하여 국내 건축가들에게 주어지지 않는 기회와 권한을 주었다. 이러한 경쟁구도 속에서 2세대와 3세대 건축가들은 실력을 증명하기 위해 치열하게 자기 연마를 할 수 밖에 없었다.
<종이와 콘크리트전>을 여는 지금 1980~90년대 흐름을 주도한 주역들이 여전히 건축계에서 활동하고 있다. 다만 그들의 서 있는 지점과 노선은 30여 년 전에 비해 복잡해졌다. 이 전시는 운동에 참여한 사람들의 궤적을 추적하고 관계망을 만들었지만 섣부른 평가를 내리지 않으려고 한다. 30년 전에 시작한 사회적 건축, 예술적 건축, 직능적 건축 운동은 미완성이며, 실천과 실험은 계속되어야 하기 때문이다. 한국건축은 불연속적이고 파편적인 것으로 인식되곤 한다. 하지만 불연속성과 파편이 나쁜 것만은 아니다. 한국건축의 과감함과 역동성은 바로 거기에서 나오고 있기 때문이다. 종이는 담론의 축적물이며, 콘크리트는 담론을 물질화한 결과물이다. 이 전시를 통해 종이와 콘크리트 각각의 세계에서만 통용되었던 이야기가 결국은 서로 얽혀있었음을 인식하는 계기가 되었으면 한다. 더 나아가 좁게는 동아시아, 넓게는 전 세계 지형도 위에서 한국 건축계가 더 이상 학습자가 아니라, 영향을 주고받는 동시대자(contemporary)임을 공유하는 기회가 되었으면 한다.
*이 글은 다음 두 글을 발췌, 수정, 보완하여 집필하였다. 김성홍, “한국의 건축운동, 어떻게 볼 것인가”, 『건축과 사회』, 제25호, 2013 특별호, 특집: 한국 현대건축 운동의 흐름, (사)새건축사협의회, 2013, pp.10-27; 김성홍, “제5장 민간건축의 건립과 변화,” 『서울2천년사』, 35권 현대서울의 도시건설, 서울역사편찬원, 2016, pp.273-329.
ⓒ EH (국립현대미술관 제공)
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