Significant Impact: “Sosukwon- Memorial for former president Roh Moo-hyun”

Project: Significant Impact: “Sosukwon- Memorial for former president Roh Moo-hyun”

Location: Gimhae, Gyeongsangnam-do, Korea

Year: Summer 2015

Use: national graveyard no. 1

Site area: 3,505.61 m2


Contents of construction:

– gravestone

– Corten steel wall L=60m, H=3m)

– curb stone, natural-thin-stone, inscribed donor tile

– national flagpole, altar for floral tributes, seat of honor, crowd control barrier

– 1 water basin, 2 waterways

– lighting poles, lightings on water basin, lightings on waterway, speakers

– landscape

Photo Credit: Jong Oh Kim

The unprecedented and shocking incident of former President Roh Moo hyun jumping to his death in May 2009 left us with the question of what he meant and stood for in our individual hearts. The following was my own answer, as I wrote in an article for a Christian magazine:

“Jesus was a thorough outsider… an outcast by choice, if you will. He voluntarily stepped out of the establishment, criticizing and changing it from the outside. This is the stance of a true intellectual, according to Edward Said. With unremitting efforts to expel himself from boundaries, he aspires to self-awakening and rebirth. Such life as an outsider is hardly an easy one. But it is because of those who turn their backs on the comforts of civilization and pioneer the harsh wilderness that we are able to advance. Roh was one of these men.” (Today, Vol.8, July 2009)

I was part of a committee formed to fulfill Roh’s last wish to build, in his memory, “a very small gravestone” near his home. The primary idea was that his grave should be a memorial place for a “voluntary gentile.” It should not follow the tradition of other late ex-presidents whose graves are situated at the farthest and highest place inside the National Cemetery. A place close to the street, to the plaza, to us citizens was more fitting.

The location for his grave was decided upon visiting Bongha Village, his hometown to which he returned after leaving office in early 2008. The triangular site, with an area of 3300 m2, was crossed by two streams. Division of the site into three parts was thus already in place, parts which corresponded to the actions of a visitor as one entered, stood by, and paid homage to the late ex-President. It was as if the area was carefully configured to meet the tripartite program. The place already had the answer. To place the area beyond the ordinary, it was lifted by a meter from the surrounding “everyday” roads. The earth, partially even, descending, or rising along its natural geography, will be covered by pieces of flat granite inscribed with citizens’ tributes initially written on yellow (Roh’s symbolic color) ribbons during the funeral ceremony. Time will wear out these inscriptions some day, but their memories will persist. In order to define its territory, a wall of cor-ten plates ran sixty meters in length along the edges of the grave area. This steel wall, intensifying the sense of place with the weight of silence, will weather to accumulate the traces of changing landscapes. The flat rock covering the urn will also be the aforementioned “very small gravestone,” laid upon a cor-ten plate to form its own territory. The placement of pine trees around the grave area will create a connection to the existing group of pine trees at the foot of Mt. Bonghwa, and the area will finally set its place within the larger world.

The rebirth of the place was possible through discovering what was already inherent in the land. New longings were added to make it special. The landscape of this place will forever change along time and stories it comes across, providing us with memories of virtue. Space is what architecture is created as; time is what completes it.

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