Central pavilion at the Giardini della Biennale, Venice, 2019 © Hyunah Lee

Architecture Exhibitions at the Korean Pavilionfor the Venice Architecture Biennale (1996-2014)

doctoral dissertation by Hyunah Lee

Though a notion of national identity fades lately in exhibitions, the existence of national pavilions is still a dominant feature that distinguishes the Venice Biennale from other bi- and triennials. Among the thirty pavilions at the Giardini della Biennale in Venice, the Korean Pavilion is the last built national pavilion completed in 1995. Belatedly entered with the optimistic name expected to accommodate two Koreas jointly in the future, the place has only become an unprecedented exhibition venue for one half, South Korea. In South Korea, the Korean Pavilion for the Venice Biennale is unique as it is one of the earliest and the oldest architecture platforms, that has been embracing Korean architecture from even before the exhibition sphere emerged within the country in the mid-2000s.

In the recent realization and expansion of such discourse—with the first inauguration of an architecture museum and an autonomous architecture biennale in South Korea, this research reflects on the trajectory of the architecture exhibitions at the Korean Pavilion as a pioneering window of contemporary Korean architecture. From its first entry meant as a sheer satisfaction of ‘equal present to the west’ in 1996 to a contrasting and apical achievement of winning the Golden-Lion Award in 2014, the study illuminates and investigates its decades-long oscillation between the domestic scene and the global field. Considering its perennial setup and structure of national representation at the Venice Biennale, the research further attempts to understand the significance of the Biennale as an architectural catalyst.