Model of the Hwa-Am Temple; Photo by Tyler Trudeau
Model for the Hwa-Am Temple; Photo by Tyler Trudeau

Stumbling into the Popp Martin Student Union this past Friday, after a rather long day boring myself in the College of Arts and Architecture, I suddenly found myself drawn to the art gallery, where a visiting team of architects were displaying their work. While my mind effortlessly screamed at my body to head towards the dining hall, I instead wandered past the movie theater, and down into the threshold that was the art gallery. Unbeknownst to me, however, was that this would be more than a mere art exhibit.

Right when I first saw the poster for the upcoming gallery showing entitled ‘Structural Aesthetics of Korea Traditional Architecture,’ fluently strung up throughout campus, I was intrigued by just what the art display might truly entail. With a lengthy history spanning back millennia, Korea has always a region of East Asia full to the brim with rich tradition, culture and — to my surprise — architecture; And as I emerged onto this event, I discovered more and more about the place than I ever knew.

So as I descended down the hallway towards the gallery, I was met first with a diverse hoard of people — student, faculty and otherwise — peering radiantly at something that hid itself from my eyes until I got closer. I was taken aback when I realized that not only would I witness a chunk of Korean tradition in their architecture, but I would be immersed in the region’s rituals, dances and clothing. Before I even entered the gallery, I was treated to only a slice of what the 2016 Winter Cultural Exchange Program had to offer.

Photo by Tyler Trudeau
Photo by Tyler Trudeau

When the echoes of the epic chants of one talented South Korean performer had dissipated, and what I deemed the “K-Pop Tai Kwon Do” team had spun their final kick, I floated finally into the gallery. While a gallery such as this might be less appealing to someone not studying design, I saw the collection as a piece of not only knowledge, but inspiration. A study of the region’s eclectic tradition in building design, the gallery painted a portrait of history and harmony as it explored just what goes into crafting such a unique construction style.

Weaving my way through the small but extensive gallery, my eyes darted from the walls of floor plans and other blueprints for design to the center of the room, where an exquisite wooden model of the Hwa-Am Temple sat. Its patient design revealed itself in its smallest details, the model exemplified not only a lack of modern, industrial manufacturing, but a “natural beauty” that has held true significance in Asian architecture for thousands of years.

While this gallery exhibit might not be a huge hot spot on the radar for the end of the month, it’s a gallery worth visiting if you’re at all interested in design, history, art and most importantly, tradition. Going in I didn’t know much about Asian culture, but leaving that night, I felt I had not only traversed most of East Asia, but I had peeked into the millennia of cultural and innovative mindsets that influence the world we live in today.

‘Structural Aesthetics of Korea Traditional Architecture’ runs in the Popp Martin Student Union Gallery from January 23rd to February 3rd, and includes the work of architects Kim Sun-Hee, Kim Eun-Ja and Kim Jin-Hee, among others.