Nam June Paik Museum, South Korea

Name: Nam June Paik Museum
Location: South Korea
Date: 2003
Size: 70,000 SF
Program: Museum with lobby, flexible exhibition galleries, administrative offices, multi-purpose room, shop, café, parking facility and outdoor sculpture garden

Design Statement

Our proposal for the Nam June Paik Museum is a unique architectural proposal that embodies the creative spirit found in the artist and his work. Through researching work we were able to generate various concepts that directed our design development process. It was essential for us to derive the key conceptual aspects of the project as a response to Nam June Paik’s and his work.


As with Nam June Paik’s interest in media as a transmitter of information, we saw our museum proposal as a transmitter of culture through the work of Nam June Paik as well as other artists. We felt that the form of the museum should project this intention. The museum is a device for disseminating creative visions, like a television transmits pop culture.

Museum = device

Similarly, the museum should be as accessible to the public as a television is. This being said, we saw the design of the Nam June Paik Museum not as a vault protecting its objects of ‘high’ culture but as an inviting structure that celebrates the accessibility of its contents. Furthermore, the structure should interact with the public similarly as a Nam June Paik sculpture interacts with the viewer. The museum is an event and/or performance.

Museum = performance


During our site analysis we determined that the location of the Nam June Paik Museum should: 1) provide high visibility from the street; 2) minimize negative effects to the existing terrain and landscape; 3) accommodate easy public access, both vehicular and pedestrian; 4) intelligently integrate the new museum with the neighborhood and within the overall master plan for future development.

With the above criteria, we chose to suspend the museum structure across the existing natural valley anchoring it minimally to the sloped terrain on either side. The museum is a bridge.

Museum = bridge

As a bridge structure, the Nam June Paik Museum’s architecture provides a bold statement while minimizing its contact to the existing landscape, thus minimizing dmage to the existing site.

The museum as bridge concept also provides a dramatic interface with the visitor and the museum as they approach and enter the site. The museum, suspended above the natural valley, projects its physical presence to the viewer in a similar fashion as a billboard projects its message. Intentionally, the visitor enters the site by passing under the suspended structure, heightening the dramatic experience.


As a method to formalize and enforce the concept of the bridge we analyzed the program requirements and created a strategy that organized the entire museum program into one continuous bar. This bar was then superimposed on the site spanning across the valley. Realizing that the continuous program bar was impractical we developed a new concept that dedicated the horizontal bar to the public realms of the museum and utilized the non-public areas as anchors on either end of the bar. By doing this we were able to heighten the experience of the visitor by isolating the exhibition and lobby areas within the form of the bridge.

The overall architectural effect we wanted to create with the exhibition bar was not that of a solid, unwelcoming monumental structure but one that interfaced with the public through a performative interaction. To accomplish this we chose to enclose the entire exhibition bar in glass allowing the public both glimpses into the museum where its contents were revealed as well as a visual connection from the inside of the bar to the outside landscape and terrain. In effect, the exhibition bar became an illuminated bar suspended dramatically suspended over the landscape.

To enhance the performative aspects of the exhibition bar we applied a pattern of colored stripes across its length that derived from the NTC color bars. The colored stripes are achieved by the use of colored glass providing the possibility of illuminating the bar in various combinations of translucent color patterns. This translucent polychromatic glass surface is the principle façade enclosure.

Considering that a completely translucent exhibition bar might prove to be impractical for a museum for video arts, we developed a concept for shading various sections of the bar with sliding sunscreen devices. The opaque sunscreen devices envelope the translucent exhibition bar in sections and operate by sliding on a track system supported by the superstructure. The sunscreen devices provide a flexible system for blacking-out unwanted natural light in areas where necessary and allow natural light in elsewhere. Because they are operable, the sunscreen devices can be positioned in multiple locations providing a secondary layer of pattern to the exterior surface of the exhibition bar, again enforcing the performative concept for the building. Each sunscreen device is finished with a different gray tone derived from the gray color scale created by a typical black and white television. As the sunscreens move across the bar the colored glass bands behind reveal themselves in multiple patterns of illuminated colors creating a symphonic performance broken by the rhythmic pattern of opaque gray scales.

Museum =

STRUCTURE  Coinciding with the development of the bridge concept’s architectural form – the suspended exhibition bar --, we analyzed various structural systems that could support the suspended exhibition bar. In principle we determined that both ends of the exhibition bar could be supported by stacked non-public areas tucked into the sloping terrain. Realizing that the glass bar could not support itself between the two ends we studied various ‘bridge’ structures. We concluded that the support of the glass exhibition bar would be achieved by integrating it with a continuous folded plate structure, adding a bit of dynamic form to the otherwise static bar. The folded plate structure became a robust armature for the support of the fragile glass bar.

EXHIBITION CONCEPTS  Our proposal utilizes the idea of an open flexible plan for exhibition. Aside from the fixed location of the Nam June Paik Studio reconstruction, all the exhibition spaces flow into one another and can be at any time partitioned by various temporary constructions. Our intention is to create an open exhibition landscape with temporary installations dispersed throughout. We found similar successful precedents in museums such as the National Gallery in Berlin, Germany by Mies van der Rohe and the Museum of Art in Sao Paolo by Lina Bo Bardi.

EXTERIOR SPACES  In our master plan for the site we identified four important exterior spaces that would be designed as part of the Nam June Paik Museum construction phase. They are as follows:

-Nam June Paik Museum Garden: this garden extends from the street into the center of the site, basically occupying the area of the natural valley. The intention is that the garden provides a natural landscape as the pedestrian link into the site and to the entrance of the museum.

-Sculpture Garden: located at the peak of the hill at the southwest portion of the site, this garden provides a natural landscaped park linking the museum with both the Provincial Museum and the neighborhood park.

-Entry Terrace: This plaza acts as a formal transition between the pedestrian path up the slope and the entrance to the museum. This terrace plaza would be constructed of a stone surface and would act as a meeting and gathering location for visitors.

-Sculpture Terrace: Located at the western end of the exhibition bar, the Sculpture Terrace was conceived as an extension of the Exhibition Bar and would house specific Nam June Paik exterior sculptures as well as other artist’s work. In addition, the proximity of the café to the Sculpture Terrace allows for informal café dining outside in the garden. 



Project Team:  Jeffrey Johnson and Jill Leckner (principals); Cassandra Thornburg