Design ideas competition imagines ‘unifying’ bathhouse for Korean Demilitarized Zone

Architectural research initiative Arch Out Loud has announced the winners of an international ideas competition to conceptualise an underground bathhouse within the Korean Demilitarized Zone.

The purpose of the contest was to explore the ways in which new forms of non-military architecture could occupy the border zone between North and South Korea and begin to ease the existing tension between the nations, which have been in conflict for over 70 years.

Entrants were tasked with designing a bathouse that responds to the surrounding geopolitical conditions and explores the role tourism can play in opening relations across a border.

New York practices Studio M.R.D.O and Studio LaM have claimed the first prize with their submission, ‘Crossing Parallel(s)’, which conceptualises the bathhouse as “a Metaphorical Theatre”.

Visitors from each side of the DMZ approach the theatre by walking along the 38th parallel, without meeting. After passing by the checkpoint and the changing room, they see each other from a distance. Then they walk down a double helix ramp and experience “a series of emotional and physical merging and diverging moments of crossing uncrossable lines”; becoming “actors and audience at the same time” as they observe each other’s feelings and pass through layers of tension and relaxation.

Finally, upon reaching a communal pool, “all emotions experienced before are liquefied into water” as visitors from North and South bathe and converse together.

Nearly 300 design proposals were received from over 900 participants around the world, and five teams were declared runners-up. The competition judges included architect Stan Allen, Moon Hoon and Jing Liu.

In a statement, the jury said: “With such a charged setup, the competition poses difficult questions and issues for architecture. The more successful submissions were ones that tried to address the conflict through spatial programs, scenarios and narratives.

“The projects point to the illegibility and the illegitimacy that is experienced by one side toward the other. They are also gestural in creating intense metaphorical experiences in an overall peaceful grandeur for a proposed unity.

“They offers opportunities for collective and individual experiences that intertwine in tactical ways. The powerful tension between large scale object and human body can be read as a sublime commentary about the DMZ zone.”

“The underground space introduces a new field that is multi-directional or non-directional, where people can reorient, communicate, and unify.”

“The division of Korea, and the location, remains extremely emotional and use of this space releases that tension.”

South Korea  North Korea  arch out loud  design  architecture  DMZ 
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Architectural research initiative Arch Out Loud has announced the winners of an international ideas competition to conceptualise an underground bathhouse within the Korean Demilitarized Zone. The purpose of the contest was to explore the ways in which new forms of non-military architecture could occupy the border zone between North and South Korea and begin to ease the existing tension between the nations, which have been in conflict for over 70
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The purpose of the contest was to explore the ways in which new forms of non-military architecture could occupy the border zone between North and South Korea / arch out loud
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