On a broad perspective, skepticism or cynicism is a paradoxical expression of interest. There is no need to be skeptical or cynical if you are not interested. The same goes to the skepticism and cynicism seen in the serial poetry subtitled “Architectural sociology,” written by Ham Sung-ho.
To his eyes, Seoul is an imported product that looks glamorous on the outside. “Seoul is shinyㅡWho cleaned Seoul all night like this?/ So glittering, Seoul is like an imported product.” What does the poet mean by referring to Seoul as an imported product? It means that all structures, including the buildings that look like “a citadel of enormous desire,” “advertising towers glittering with neon signs and church spires” and “the buildings of financial companies that rise as high as the Tower of Babel” look like imported products to the poet’s eyes. However, to say that something is an imported product means that it has nothing of its own, and to say that it does not have its own means it lacks philosophy, historical awareness, and aesthetic logic. To the poet, such structures are not architecture but a movie set that can always be built and removed. Or as Martin Heidegger put it, such structures are like “containers without soul.” This is such a skeptical and cynical perspective.
Why is the poet so critical? It is because he wants to talk about break with tradition and the absence of historical awareness in relations to architecture. It is because he wants to talk about the absence of aesthetic principles and values held by communities. Those structures attest to such absence. To be sure, this is such an ungenerous assessment and somewhat exaggerated. However, it is hard to ignore the belief that an architect, who does not have historical awareness and aesthetic logic, is nothing more than a craftsman or a knowledge engineer, who is motivated by money. If not him, who is also an architect, who would write such bitter poems about the modern architecture? This not only applies to architecture but also to all fields, including politics, economy, education, and art. This is why the sharpness of skepticism, cynicism, and taunt seen in the 13 poems is the product of deep affection and reflection on architecture on a small scale and the overall culture on a large scale. Literature critic,