RAS Lecture Video: Catastrophic Losses of Korea’s Architectural Heritage

Lecturer: Peter Bartholomew

The speaker, Peter Bartholomew, will present an overview of Korea’s architectural heritage as it was up to 1910 and then review how it has been decimated to the point where now, in 2013, only a very few rare examples remain, one of the most significant architectural achievements in Asia.

The presentation will cover monumental architecture such as palaces, the sprawling provincial government centres and military compounds, all with their stately, graceful guest houses, administrative buildings, pleasure pavilions and imposing stone fortress walls as well as the vernacular architecture of the “hanok,” or residential houses, from the grand estates of the landed aristocracy to the commoners’ home which survived in abundance through the early 1970’s, but now are a rarity.

Mr. Bartholomew will first explain the uniquely sophisticated, Korean aspects of the architecture and the important design and aesthetic cultural values and then will then progressively clarify the history of their phased destruction, first the massive demolitions of monumental architecture nation-wide during the 1910~1945 Japanese occupation period, second during the terribly destructive war of 1950 ~ 1953 and finally the tragic losses during the post-war “development” period, especially from the mid-1960s and continuing as we speak, today.

Finally, Mr. Bartholomew will present an analysis of the Korean policies (government and personal) since the 1960’s toward continued preservation, reconstruction and maintenance of the very few remaining examples of Korea’s traditional architecture, with special emphasis on the “hanok” and the fight that he is waging to preserve the few remaining examples.

Mr. Bartholomew has lived in Korea since 1968, always residing in an original “hanok” home. He initially lived in Sŏn Kyo Jang estate in Kangnŭng, Kangwŏn Province (east coast), the 300-year-old home of a Chosŏn Dynasty aristocratic family which is arguably the finest example of semi palatial, aristocratic architecture remaining in the country. He has studied Korean architecture privately for the past 45 years, frequently appearing on television and other media to wage his preservation campaign and now among Koreans has the nickname of “Guardian of the Hanok” (한옥지킴이).

 

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