interview with minsuk cho of mass studies
interview with minsuk cho of mass studies
mar 31, 2008

interview with minsuk cho of mass studies

minsuk choportrait © designboom



we met minsuk cho in milan on april 19, 2008.



what is the best moment of the day?the best moment of my day is when I’m in a transitional state. when I am in the shower in the morning, I have ahard time getting out, because I love just standing and completely being in between. and I also feel the same way about going to bed.


what kind of music do you listen to at the moment?pretty much everything, a combination of old ones which are related to my memories, and new. I try and update myself with what’s going on. it’s like making a discovery, in a way.




interview with minsuk cho of mass studies

‘new seoul city hall’ (seoul, south korea), 2008



interview with minsuk cho of mass studies‘new seoul city hall’ (seoul, south korea), 2008


do you listen to the radio?in the morning, from my alarm clock.


what books do you have on your bedside table?I have a whole bookshelf as my bedside table, so I’m kind of a person who reads a hundred books simultaneously, little by little. this is some sort of attention deficit disorder almost. right now I’m reading about the roman story, the roman empire: italians.





do you read design / architecture / fashion magazines?oh yes, absolutely. I try to absorb everything.


where do you get news from?I get news from the internet quite regularly as well as having several magazine subscriptions.



interview with minsuk cho of mass studies‘ann demeulemeester shop’ (seoul, south korea), 2007



I assume you notice how women you have any preferences?individuality. especially in my region it is so much abouttrying to fit in and status quo, so it is very extra ordinary to find people like that: dressing to show their individuality.


what kind of clothes do you avoid wearing?well, I don’t like to stand out too much myself, contrary to my previous statement. with clothes, I actually like to fit in. although I like women dressing as individuals, I myself prefer to completely disappear.




interview with minsuk cho of mass studies

‘ann demeulemeester shop’ (seoul, south korea), 2007


interview with minsuk cho of mass studies‘ann demeulemeester shop’ (seoul, south korea), 2007



do you have any pets?no, only a cactus. it’s maintenance free.


when you were a child, did you want to become an architect?I wanted to become an artist, but then I switched when I was twelve to become an architect.




interview with minsuk cho of mass studies‘xi gallery’ (yeonsan-dong, south korea), 2007



where do you work on your designs and projects?the ideas come from everywhere, but I also think I spend a lot of the time working while I’m in bed, because I often have a problem switching off my brain and it just goes on all night in the darkness. my role in the office includes generating and initiating the ideas, but it always bounces back and forth with my team. it’s like a pinball game,  you shoot and just… (makesbouncing motion with hands)


do you discuss your work with other designers?yes, I like to do that as much as I can so that I don’t become a little self obsessed tyrant. it is very difficult, but I started traveling a lot over the last three years to different architects’ events. I like to get my butt kicked by other people and criticized, and they are always helpful. I feel I am very blessed with friends who are very talented architects of my generation who can make brutally honest observations about what we do.




interview with minsuk cho of mass studies

‘xi gallery’ (yeonsan-dong, south korea), 2007



interview with minsuk cho of mass studies‘xi gallery’ (yeonsan-dong, south korea), 2007



interview with minsuk cho of mass studies‘xi gallery’ (yeonsan-dong, south korea), 2007



describe your style, like a good friend of yours woulddescribe of my critics wrote about us that there are manyvariables that defines our work. there are variables about programs, the nature of the program, what is public or private, and also variables about typology.there are also some iconic aspects of buildings and what is known to be special or ordinary. there are somany of those dichotomies and we like to question the variables that define architecture.just name any common sort of binary oppositional ‘thing’ –we like to question that. we often find ourselves positioned in somewhat obscure, or unusual locations in between those sets of dichotomies.


what is your view in regards to respect for nature in your architecture?anything that we architects do is a very artificial act and a lot of our attitude about nature came from where we are based (seoul, korea). which I think other global cities and large cities can share, since they share commonsymptoms to a certain degree. seoul, being one of the densest cities, happens to be surrounded by beautiful nature, specifically the mountains. so a lot of things,either unfortunate or interesting, came out as a by-product, almost like an afterthought or an accident from the inevitable crash between the two, which is in a sense a third separate condition, so to speak. we then try to learn from them by making observations, and we gofrom there.




interview with minsuk cho of mass studies‘oktokki space center’ (ganghwa island, south korea), 2005


interview with minsuk cho of mass studies‘oktokki space center’ (ganghwa island, south korea), 2005


please describe an evolution in your work, from your first projects to the present day.this is our 6th year. there are certain directions that we took for very small projects, and others for very large scales, but we also go back and forth. we are not only growing; in fact, our office stopped growing in size, as an attempt to maintain the initial spirit of it, as a much more intimate environment, although we became a mid sized office, with about thirty people simultaneouslyworking. so we just limit the number of on-going projects, and try to focus and control them better. work wise, it is very hard as a young firm to get a public project in my country, so we’ve been mostly working with clients who are very unique individuals or private companies with sincere interest in their buildings. but now we are also extending to some small scale public projects, which I am very excited about. until now we have been mostly limited to korea but now we are doing some other things, like the ring dome, which is our first structure in europe. we are also doing something in america with a similar premise, and china and so on. we are very interested in engaging with different physical and cultural locations and coming up with something appropriate.




interview with minsuk cho of mass studies

‘cracked house’ (tanhyeon-myeon, south korea), 2005



interview with minsuk cho of mass studies‘cracked house’ (tanhyeon-myeon, south korea), 2005


what project has given you the most satisfaction?wow, that is very hard. who is your favourite baby?you know, usually we are never satisfied in what we do. I have to be honest, usually the favourite babies are the unborn babies, for architects I think. they’re in this different space, which hasn’t been contaminated. you know when I walked around yesterday, I saw this furniture, prefect looking furniture and I really admired it, I realized that in architecture this is never possible. I’m not saying it is good or bad actually, but it is because it has to be occupied, it has to be used and it has to be worn out and it will never be like this perfect beautiful thing that takes you somewhere just by looking at it.





who would you like to design something for?someone I would respect, I would design something for. working for someone I admire would be very motivating. in fact, we have been able to do that to a certain degree, by making good choices of clients that we’d like to work with. also, designing for a place or a building with a good social intention as a premise for a large number of people. to sum it up, for few very special people and masses. 


is there any designer and/or architect from the past, you appreciate a lot?there are so many and I keep discovering more fromthe past and the current people. well, I like nam june paik, he has been my inspiration, not only because he is korean, although that is how I got to know him. unfortunately, I only met him when he was ill so I didn’t really get to speak to him. he was in a wheelchair and he looked really annoyed to see one of his fans when I was living in new york. and architects, yesterday rem (koolhaas) was here. rem is my former boss andstill a very good friend. I deeply admire what he does, only a few people can be as intellectually stimulating as him and also do great buildings. also borromini maybe? an interesting character, beautiful. I read his story recently and came to appreciate his work even more.



interview with minsuk cho of mass studies‘pixel house’ (paju city, south korea), 2002



interview with minsuk cho of mass studies‘pixel house’ (paju city, south korea), 2002


and those still working / contemporaries?there are so many though. I like to see the body of work to say it, rather than this table or that building. I am still very much interested in art. I think because we as architects we end up making objects but we like to have also more charged or interesting ideas behind it. of course, I like art that blows you away just by looking at it, but also artists working in more conceptual ways. usually they are more intriguing when you don’t get it at first glance, being less obvious. like joseph beuys. I was in china last week and went to the 798 art district. in this area, a lot of it were for total spectacle, the kind of objects that make you feel small and overwhelm you. I do like to feel small myself sometimes, but I appreciate art that gets to you in a much more mysterious way, makes you think a long time somehow. anything that lasts longer in your head.


what advice would you give to the young?don’t look up to all the people, do your own thing. trust yourself and don’t be afraid. be fully confident of what you believe in. I have always struggled with doubts, but I think a lot of things have been a process of good confirmation of what I believed in in a younger time. it is actually better or maybe more right than a lot of people would tell you, this is what’s going to happen to you or what is going on in this world. I guess this is a kind of optimism that I like to encourage in young people.





what are you afraid of regarding the future?personally, I like to produce good work with my team, work that we like and can enjoy. so anything opposite of that would be what I would be afraid of. on a larger level related to what we do, I am afraid of worse things that can be done by people like us, architects, in thisfast moving time. especially for the last twenty years, seoul has been purely governed by the market system and has become quite socially disruptive. milano is a very great example of a city, with these great urban spaces and so on, but the part of the world that I am working in is really different. the nice thing is that people in our city recently discovered the potential of what great spaces and buildings can do for society. so I am optimistic.



interview with minsuk cho of mass studies



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