Go to contents

An escape from ego

Posted July. 20, 2022 07:56,   

Updated July. 20, 2022 07:56


“Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion. It is not the expression‎ of personality, but an escape from personality.” This statement of T.S. Eliot reflects his philosophy of suppressing and sublimating emotions as an aesthetical principle instead of revealing them. This philosophy stands also true for Kim Won, a Korean architect. It appears the architect too perceived his own works as an escape from his emotion and personality.

At a glance, the Midang Literary House of poet Seo Jeong-ju, which was designed by Kim Won, seems void of personality. Kim used a closed elementary school that stayed there long enough to be part of its nature, thereby succeeding in building the poetry house without doing any harm to the nature. The classrooms on each side were modified to a minimum level, and part of the teachers’ room at the center was removed to erect an 18-meter-high tower that is rather humble at best. That is all there is to it. It is far from fabulous architectures with a strong personality.

As per his own words, the literary house became a natural and dignified structure as if it had always been there for a long time without overwhelming the surroundings, standing out alone or being pompous. This allows visitors to pay attention to Midang’s fascinating poems displayed inside of the house and the trace of his life that is a mixture of pride and shame. The humility of this architecture allows for a long appreciation of the view that top of the house has to offer – the sea of Gochang and Byeonsanbando, the house where Midang was born, a steep hill, Mount Soyosan, and above all, the wind of his hometown that nourished his literary sensibilities.

The architect played the magic of letting viewers pay more attention to the charm of Midang’s poems and the scenery of his house by escaping from his emotions instead of leaving them loose. Does that mean Kim Won did not have any personal color? That was not the case. He certainly has his own character, yet he understands the meaning of Eliot’s words that “only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things”. Sometimes, an artist must escape from his ego as a way of acquiring objectivity.