Hansol Museum, now known as Museum SAN is nestled in a beautiful setting of Oak Valley in the mountains of Wonju, South Korea where architecture, art, and nature are harmonized. The name “SAN” stands for Space, Art, and Nature. Once a private collection with the work of high-profile artist James Turrell has grown to become a museum sharing cultural value and space to reacquaint oneself with the majesty of nature. 

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Introduction Of The Architect

Tadao Ando is a self-taught Japanese architect whose work approach was categorized as “critical regionalism” by architectural historian Francesco Dal Co. Critical regionalism is defined as an approach to architecture which not only counters the absence of identity of the International Style but also refuses the individualism and ornamentation of Postmodern architecture. Ando has mastered creating spaces within spaces using height, breadth, spatial circulation, the minimalism of material, such as glass to reflect the touch of nature with light, wind, and water.

Design Philosophy

The first impression of the architect Tadao Ando on the museum site visit in 2005 was a ‘peaceful rest surrounded by beautiful nature out of the hectic city life’. This ultimately became the inspiration for his unique design of the museum. The ideology of Disconnect to Connect addresses this phenomenon of our individualistic culture. Rather than overemphasizing the conceptual aspect of contemporary art, a thematic approach best served the ideology behind the museum. An idea that was familiar yet provoked a new perspective. The “energy of life” mentioned by Tadao Ando is the reflection of freedom of body and mind in the union of nature and culture, far from the busy city life.

Planning

The Museum SAN, designed by the world-renowned architect Ando Tadao, comes in the category of a RE-SEUM (Resort & Museum).

The museum consists of a Welcome Centre, the main building which comprises the Paper Gallery and the Cheongju Gallery, and three outdoor gardens themed with flower, water, and stone respectively. The three outdoor gardens offer picturesque views throughout the year. The museum facilities extend over seven hundred meters along the natural mountain terrain.

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Welcome Centre

The Welcome Centre is surrounded by stone walls built with natural Paju stone. The parking area can accommodate 90 cars. Electric cars are present for the elderly and the disabled. The Welcome Centre consists of a ticket booth, toilets, a rest area, and a museum shop. The Art Shop offers products representing birch, paper, and pebbles, which are symbolic of the Museum SAN. Visitors can then proceed to the museum by enjoying a pleasant walk through the Flower Garden.

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Flower Garden

The vast flower field is covered with 800,000 China pinks in spring and summer while snow scenes in winter create the most precious contrast. An art sculpture standing amid the vast natural surroundings of the Flower Garden creates an impressive portrayal of the vision. The paved walkway then leads to the Water Garden through a white birch forest.

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Water Garden

The calm surface of the water surrounding the building gives off an impression of a floating building reflecting the lush surroundings. Pebbles underneath the shallow water add to the overall tranquillity. The installation of Alexander Liberman’s archway is yet another sculpture that frames the approaching path beautifully and contrasts with the monotone of the museum building giving contemporary architecture yet another dimension. A birch tree-lined pathway results in a limestone wall surrounding the central building which is submerged into the Water Garden, visually keeping it in solitude from its environment.

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Museum

The main building displays the concept of ‘Box and Box’ where an exposed concrete box structure is contained in another box. The façade made of Paju stone flatters the concrete and glass interior. The main building comprises the Paper Gallery which is dedicated to the themes related to paper and the Cheongju Gallery consisting of a permanent exhibition ranging from traditional artworks made of paper to contemporary art, including video art and light art.

The main building has four wings connected by outside rooms, within the shape of a square, triangle, and circle respectively. The architect intended to precise the ceaseless flow of time-binding the past and therefore the future. The skylight in between the eaves and walls fills the building with ample natural light. Visitors can witness the change in nature throughout the four seasons through the windows connecting the galleries. Café Terrace is part of this building where visitors can enjoy meals in the proximity of nature without barriers. Walking towards the back of the property, visitors enter the Stone Garden.

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Stone Garden

Stone Garden comprises nine gentle stone mounds inspired by the ancient Silla tombs which are quite prominent in the southern Gyeongju province. Additional sculptures by renowned artists like Henry Moore and George Segal’s ‘couple on two benches’ are displayed around the curved trail which ultimately leads to the James Turrell hall.

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James Turrell 

Museum SAN allows experiencing James Turrell’s four unique works, namely Sky Space, Horizon Room, Ganzfeld, and Wedgework. The beauty of light and the sense of infinite surrounding space will make your mind at peace.

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The vision of architect Tadao Ando for the Museum SAN came to life. The museum subtly responds to its environment, uniting nature and art in a beguiling setting giving visitors a sense of awakening.

Author

Rashi Jain is an architect by profession and a writer by passion. She thinks every wall has a story that needs to be told. Her admirations vary from intricate sculptures of heritage buildings to the glamour of set designing. She believes that words have the power to change the world.

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