Jihyun Jung


   Reconstruction Site
   Demolition Site
   Construction Site


   Museum of Art

   JUNGLIM Architecture





© 2021. Jihyun Jung

About Jihyun Jung’s Structure Studies: Topology
Moritz Küng

Photography can oftentimes be deceiving in that it sublimates room for impression due to its two-dimensionality and singular viewpoint. Over the decades, architectural photography has developed into it’s own independent sub-genre; disseminated in magazines, catalogues, newspapers, exhibitions or advertisements on a greater scale and more emphatically than ever before, it has oversaturated mass media outlets. It has never been more tempting to believe that in today’s insurmountable database of images we have truly seen, or experienced, something that we haven’t solely observed with our eyes. Take as example the emblematic Eiffel-Tower: we want to see or photograph this monument ourselves while admittedly it actually does look much better on a postcard or poster that seems to come closer to the desire of reality than it’s physical construction.[i]With that being said, it becomes evident that architecture is not only defined by its physicality, but can also be understood as a vessel in which the conceptual, optical and tactile intangible abstractions are visually translated through its own discourse driven by the viewer or through the interaction of a photographer.

An impression is made through the invariably subjective experiences of collective, transient moments as we fully immerse ourselves in the space by approaching, walking around and through a building. By simply changing the focal lengths of the camera lens and capturing distinct details through zoomed-in and zoomed-out images that may have not been otherwise noticed with the naked eye, an impression of the general context or the specific environment can be consolidated. Thus, the perception of a building –inherently static and motionless– is based on a movement that is fundamental for grasping the overarching concept of architecture. From our encounters with architecture, our memory might produce a subjective truth that deviates from the actual reality. Ultimately, architecture is not only a design practice based on intentions, contexts and programs, but it is a discipline that is evoked and driven by relationships, and is only fully realized until it interacts with these immediate “impressions” by the viewer.

The act of perception - let's say by a photographer - continues through its representation in the captured image and the concrete reality begins to shift into a different reality; in this sense, architecture becomes its own form of unique discourse created through its physical embodiment, or in other words, its translation of the intangible spaces in our minds. This very process requires a personal point of view, a certain attitude towards the object, a sensibility to highlight outstanding features, and, most importantly a consciousness for interpretation.

The multi-dimensional characteristics of any object are always mediated and consequently flattened through photography. Here, architecture no longer functions as a vital and active source that constantly generates images, but instead becomes reduced to a single impression. Architecture critic Enrique Walker once beautifully remarked that “an architecture book is always a mirage”[ii], and German phenomenologist Franz Xaver Baier –when analyzing the art of photography– even provocatively noted that a picture “is not reality creating” since reality is fundamentally fluid. “Images are neither «windows» nor forms of «imagination,» but fresh and mobile strata of a permanent formative process in which reality is genuinely at stake. This kind of perception is not only creative, but «co-creative» in the sense that artistic strategy and reality flow together.”[iii]

The intersection and flow of actual and observed reality is exemplarily emphasized in the pictures of the young artist Jihyun Jung (born in 1983, Seoul) who was commissioned by the SongEun Art and Cultural Foundation to document the execution of  the ST SongEun Building on Dosan-daero Avenue, designed by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. The hundred photographs in this book represent only a small part of the pictures that Jihyun Jung shooted of the construction works since September 2018 until the completion in September 2021 – allegedly more than 15,000. His views are not representative of architectural photography, however, which typically privileges straight lines and sweeping views of a completed structure. Rather, the artist presents a compilation of images that are inspired by the idea of process. In lieu of presenting formal documentary images, Jung focus on details, partial views and the intermediate stage of architecture. The artist's concept is unparalleled and significant in that his works are not predominantly about the photography of the architecture, but instead the architecture of his photographs. While the building under construction still remained a prophecy –a proto-state of architecture– Jung depicted the immediate reality: excavated stones, bare concrete beams and massive steel girders, light reflections from welding works, emergency and construction site lighting, formwork elements of concrete slabs, machinery, intermediate and stacked construction materials, scaffoldings and tarpaulins, uncovered insulations, safeguards, raw floors and bare ceilings… all ordinary materials you would expect to find from a construction site. What makes them extraordinary are Jung’s discrete observations, his intuitive connection with his objects, the translation of frontal and shifted perspectives, the accentuation of color shades and different light conditions, and by the seemingly random but precisely determined points of view, exposure and frames. He captures atmospheres from seemingly trivial moments, which obviously imply the ongoing activities, but without lapsing into forced narratives by keeping a critical distance. With that being said, it is interesting to note that workers are rarely a subject in his images. When they then appear, ducked away behind a column, welding in a far corner, carrying materials in a distance or standing at the edge on a scaffolding, they merge in the totality of the set.

Clearly intended as a series, it is difficult to single out an image that could encapsulate all the rich characteristics of Jung's extraordinary works. However, when I looked through a small part of this impressive portfolio, there was one image that stuck with me. In this image, we do not yet see the building, but instead a panorama view of Seoul taken from its top on a clear late afternoon, presumingly when construction activities came to a halt. In the very center of the photograph we see a formwork element of a concrete slab hanging on two orange ropes, floating in the air and blocking off the continuity of the horizon. It’s rough, pictorial concrete surface appears as a screen –inactive and out of order so-to speak– but asking for all the attention. The composition, contrast and aura of that image made me think of Malewich’s Black Square (1915), a seminal abstract painting that refers to the supremacy of the new geometric forms. Probably far-fetched, this photograph somehow echoes and highlights Herzog & de Meuron’s monolithic appearing triangular volume without directly capturing the building. Could it be that this one photo is synonymous with architectural photography that aims to capture the mirage of architecture, i.e. bring something to the foreground and attention that is still invisible or incomplete?

A photobook about a building cannot replace the physical encounter, but it can activate its reader; this book was realized though a collaborative effort between Dutch graphic designer Irma Boom and Jihyun Jung, which is a conceptual piece reflective of Boom’s interpretation of how she visually conceptualized this space and its impressive character through Jun’s photographs. Irma Boom has opted for a book architecture that makes it possible to follow the course of the shooting and to combine pairs of images at random, as a means of emulating this notion of subjectivity in first impressions due to the distinct sensory cues each person is influenced by. In turn, the different realities become fluid and ultimately generate a dynamic that is comparable to the exploration on site.

Moritz Küng (CH, lives in Barcelona) is an exhibition curator, critic and book editor working above all at the intersection with visual art, architecture and artists’ book publishing. As an author / editor he published e.g.: The act of seeing (urban space) (Antwerp: deSingel, 1997); Aglaia Konrad. Iconocity (Cologne: Walther König, 2005); Walter Niedermayr & SANAA (Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2007); Office Kersten Geers David van Severen. Seven Rooms (Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2009); Bas Princen. Reservoir (Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2011); Heimo Zobernig. Books & Posters (Cologne: Walther König, 2016); Addenda Architects. Bauhaus Museum Dessau #1-10 (London: Koenig Books, 2017-2019); Herzog & de Meuron. Exploring 473 (Seoul: SongEun, 2021).


[i] cf. Hans-Peter Feldmann, Paris (Eds. Reiner Speck, Gerhard Theewen). Cologne: Salon Verlag–édition séparée, 2005, unpaginated [pp. 1-32]. The artists’ book consists of thirty different Eiffel-Tower post card motives taken, among others, against the city in the background, dramatically illuminated, with fireworks, full moon, or in all four seasons.

[ii] Enrique Walker, Foreword in: Kersten Geers, Without Content (Ed. Moises Puente). Cologne: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther und Franz König, 2021, p. 11.

[iii] Franz Xaver Baier, Civil Operations, in: Walter Nierdermayr, Zivile Operationen (Ed. Gerald Matt). Vienna–Ostfildern: Kunsthalle Wien, Hatje Cantz, 2003, p. 148.