Kaesong_Investigating A Hypothetical Reunification of North and South Korea

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GIF, Line Drawing, Section, Students

Kaesong_Investigating  A Hypothetical Reunification of North and South Korea

Ekaterina Nagibina, Tomas Kucera, Vincent Francois


The project was developed in a collaboration of three people, working close together at all the steps starting from the concept development to the preparation of graphic materials. Initially it started as a proposal for the Junglim Award competition, although after a closer look at the context the project was developed on its own, without following the tabula-rasa approach of the competition guidelines.

The project investigated the social consequences of a hypothetical reunification of North and South Korea and, as a response, the opportunities lying behind the transformation of previously passive buildings, previously inhabited by the North Korean elite, into economically self-sufficient structures for new emerging social classes. The site for the project was the city of Kaesong, a city in close proximity of the border separating north and south Korea.


The project allows spatial ownership of the inhabitants not to be limited to a living unit anymore, but also include production space. By occupying, reprogramming and exploiting to the maximum the potential of each space buildings contain, people establish new formats of co-existence.

The main image to present this project was a large section. This was to not necessarily focus on the organisational structure of the building, but to demonstrate how the building could be used in the future, how people can appropriate certain empty spaces of the building. A small animation showed – through different scenarios – how people from the building use it.



Who influences you graphically?

Graphical representation is extremely important in a communicative discipline like architecture. Finding the right way to communicate your idea to external people is a crucial part of it. Not only architects will see the drawings, nor should you strive to only show your drawings to architects.

We like and are inspired by drawings that tell a little bit more than the strictly necessary, and that leave some room for interpretation. Drawings you have to discover, that you have to look at more than twice to understand, or that don’t even have the purpose to be understood at all.

What dictated your choice of colour palette? 

The aim was to highlight the life inside the building. For this we selected a black and white colour scheme for both the section of the building and the background. The inhabitants, workers and passers-by are then rendered in red, making them stand out from the black and white background. Different opacities in the red shapes then create a sense of depth, which is important when all other forms of perspective are omitted. In this way, the focus of the spectator is first drawn to the social life inside the building, after which it discovers the irregular shape of the towers and the blurred suggestion of the location.


One of the most interesting sections when thinking of unveiling the interior of a building is that of Kowloon, similarly you chose to unveil the life of the project through the same means. How would the use of any other form of drawing influence the identity of the project?

Every kind of architectural drawing reveals a different aspect of a story. Quite often projects have as a starting point the plan, or in other words the organisational representation of the building. We were working towards a section from the very beginning of the project, because we were convinced it would help in highlighting what is important in the project. This does not mean that we didn’t consider the use of different drawings, but it was clear from the start that a section would be the most suitable. Not only is the section able to demonstrate spatial relationships and the vertical configuration of a building, but it also allowed us to create a feeling of a lively building by offering a voyeuristic experience inside of inhabitants’ homes. With other traditional architectural drawings – plans and facades – this is a lot more difficult to achieve.


What lead to the development of the project on its own and not following competition guidelines?

The main reason was that the competition had a tabula rasa approach, meaning that it did not consider the already built environment as valuable enough to keep. After being immersed in the subject for a semester we felt that there is more value to the buildings of Kaesong, not only nostalgic but practical as well. So we decided to keep and even protect the buildings, putting us in a confronting position with the competition guidelines. However, it is not because you find yourself in a confronting position that you should stop developing your ideas. We decided to continue in the direction that we were headed and see where we would end up, and it gave us a lot of fun while working on the project.


What is your take on the architectural competition?

Architectural competitions are a means of providing certain questions to architects. But if we, as architects, let the outcome of our projects be dictated only by fitting the requirements of the brief, then we are merely providing a service. We think that one of the core aspects of architectural discourse is to continue asking relevant critical questions, even if it would steer you away from the expected outcome.

 “Architects themselves, some of whom devote their uniqueness of mind and their talents for embodying ideas to serving the interests of developers, corporations, and politicians, are ignoring more urgently critical conditions. Continuing the struggle to understand what architecture is helps keep everyone—especially the architects—more honest.” (Lebbeus Woods, blog entry on https://lebbeuswoods.wordpress.com/2007/11/13/what-is-architecture/)



Tomáš Kučera was born in Pardubice in the Czech Republic in 1990, and is an architect and a big lover of quality and a healthy lifestyle. During his education at the Czech technical university in Prague, Faculty of Architecture, he gained his first work experience in the Prague design studio Aulik Fiser Architekti and the Amsterdam design studio SeARCH. After completing his education, he started working for the Prague architecture studio Jakub Cigler Architekti where he is currently employed.

Ekaterina Nagibina is from Russia and has a background in art and photography. She has a degree in Architecture from the Tyumen State University of Architecture and Civil Engineering and a Masters’ Degree in Architecture from the University of Liechtenstein. She contributed to the first official participation of Liechtenstein in the 14th Architectural Biennale in Venice in 2014, curated by Rem Koolhaas. Her photographs were used for the exhibition in the Russian Pavilion on the same Biennale as well. Currently she is employed as a researcher at the University of Liechtenstein (FL).

Vincent François is from Belgium. He finished his Bachelors’ Degree of Architecture at the University of Antwerp and obtained his Masters’ Degree of Architecture in 2016 at the KU Leuven, Campus Brussels. His graduation project was nominated by the KU Leuven to participate in the Young Talent Architecture Award (YTAA), where he ended up on the shortlist. Currently he is employed as an intern/architect in Basel (CH).

This project was developed in the winter semester of 2014, when Tomas, Ekaterina and Vincent were working together for a design studio in the Masters’ Program at the KU Leuven, Campus Brussels, focusing on urban projects and cultures. Tomas and Ekaterina were there as a part of the Erasmus exchange program, Vincent was there as a local student.


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