Thursday, February 14, 2008

Fires Old and New

Oh, holy cow.

First, somebody sets this on fire:
--Photo: Sean in Japan

The Namdaemun (Sungnyemun) Gate in Seoul, Korea.  This thing was built in 1398.  1398.  That number doesn't even look like a year.  Over six-hundred years ago.  The oldest wooden structure in Korea.  What kind of low-life scum puts a match to something like that?  I mean, really.  If it makes any sense, I almost hope it was an act of well-structured political rebellion rather than just some punk kid with no respect for beauty or history.

And then this burns to a blackened crisp:
The VilLA NM by UNStudio

The phrase "modern masterpiece" has come up, and that's certainly debatable.  What's for certain is that this house was devastatingly cool. UNS got one fantastic client who really let them be as expressive and free as they liked.  The interiors looked like something out of a late-1960s Science-Fiction film, but at times were surprisingly warm.  It sat on the site like a glimmering cybernetic jewel.

If nothing else, VilLA NM was extremely NOW.  This one had only been standing for a year.  One year.  Ironic it may be, but I almost find that every bit as tragic.  Like the death of a newborn baby, it never even got a chance to live.

And it's not even like they were just damaged by fire.  Both of them were completely devastated.

The Namdaemun I think I read they're going to try to rebuild.  But you can obviously never really get that ancient complexity, creak and groan, the comforting smell, or power of that astonishing Asian wood-frame construction back again.  It's just gone.  VilLA NM I'm sure will never be rebuilt, but nor should it.  It was a moment in time, and so new, it would be silly to try to recreate it now.  It would make a lot more sense to do something brand new to 2008, rather than bring 2006 back.

It's a smoky dark week for Architectural History, that's for sure.

Namdaemun Gate 1398-2008
VilLA NM 2006-2008
May they R.I.P.

©2008, Ryan Witte

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