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NAMELESS Architecture talks architecture in Seoul versus New York, concepts versus practical constructions and finding new uses for unused spaces.

Written by
Hwang Hye Young
Since their start in 2009, NAMELESS Architecture (a duo made up of Na Un-chung and Yoo So-rae) has been making quite a name for itself; collecting awards such as the Architectural League Prize for Young Architects, the AIA New York Honor Award and the Boston Society of Architects Award. The have also had several exhibits at places like the MoMA and the Center for Architecture New York. We at Time Out Seoul met them at the Seoul Museum of Art while they were busily preparing for their upcoming exhibition, “Re-play: 4 Platforms & 17 Events.” Their installation at the exhibition attempts to find solutions for revitalizing Guro-gu’s Lifelong Learning Center. Consisting of semi-transparent square boards attached to vertical white poles, these boards when turned in one direction can be  thought of as “doors” and as being representative of infinite space and when turned in the other direction can be thought of as “walls” and as being representative of finite spaces. 
What’s it like to work in both New York and seoul? From an architect’s perspective, how are the two cities different?
Yoo Sorae When it comes to complexity and intensity, Seoul is very much like New York. But personally, I think New York’s social and cultural infrastructure are stronger than that of any other city in the world. In New York, people from all over the world compete with each other and it’s very difficult to get a chance to build something there. Seoul, on the other hand, has many more opportunities for less-experienced architects to build. I think different cities provide you with different opportunities.
And how did you get the opportunity to work on this exhibition? 
Yoo Sorae We were approached by SeMA and given the assignment of reconceptualizing the Guro-gu Lifelong Learning Center, so we didn’t necessarily choose the space. 
Why this concept in this space? 
Na un-chung We gave the space some thought and realized that there are many different power lines that used to be there that ran towards KBS Radio Station. (Only a few of them remain today.) 
The image of those power lines inspired us to use vertical poles. However, we didn’t want the work to be stagnant so we added moving walls to them. By giving each pole rotating squares, we made it possible for the people themselves to decide the purpose of the area. Close the walls within and it can become a workroom for an artist. Open the doors wide and it can be  a playground for children. 
Yoo Sorae It’s also a statement on how unused spaces can be revitalized. First, certain structures are set up and people seemingly make good use out of them. But after awhile, people lose interest and forget about them. I thought this was a side effect of deciding how the area should be used. We wanted people to think out of the box, mark off and change the area in order to use it more efficiently. That’s why the exhibition gives so much freedom to the visitor. 
How is designing a space for a conceptual exhibition different from designing a space for a practical construction? 
Na un-chung When working within so-called practical construction, there are so many physical limitations, such as technology and 
capital. You can’t necessarily actualize your ideas exactly the way you want to. However, when you’re designing for a conceptual 
exhibition, there are no limits. You can express your ideas exactly how you want. However, I don’t consider this particular exhibition to be “impractical.” I think an exhibition such as this can also inspire feasible construction. 
Anything in seoul you’d like to work on?
Yoo Sorae If I could work on anything? It would be Korean apartments, for sure.
Na un-chung In Korea, apartments have a special context. I think the most “Korean” house is an apartment and not a hanok. Being “Korean” here has so many meanings that differ from the conventional. While hanoks may be the most traditional houses of Korea, they’re not necessarily the ones to best represent modern Seoul. We need to acknowledge our apartment culture instead of denying it and we need to contemplate how modern architects can bring cultural development to it. Ignoring this blatant fact is like running away from reality
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