You were undergraduates at Korea University in different times and saw different development phases of the Sciences Campus, which has undergone rapid development. What was the Sciences Campus like when you were undergraduates?
Sim: I entered the Department of Horticulture in 1967. The department started accepting students in March 1963, and 35 students enrolled at the time. It was the fifth department established within the College of Agriculture. The department was located in a two-story stone building to the east of the Main Library, which is now occupied by the College of Education. The Department of Engineering Building #2 was then used by the Department of Liberal Arts. When I was an undergraduate, I often walked from the Main Hall to the Sciences Campus to take liberal arts courses. I was always in a hurry to get to the Liberal Arts Building between classes.
Choi: Most KU science and engineering students might conjure up the image of the Main Hall when they heard the words “Korea University” before they became freshmen. I was no exception: I had thought that I would take classes in a majestic university building, then found out that there was a separate campus for science and engineering students. When I first went to the Aegineung Campus, I was a bit in shock. At that time, the West Wing and East Wing flanked the College of Engineering Building #2. Engineering students usually used the College of Engineering Building #2. There were not many buildings on the Sciences Campus. The only building that stood out was the Science and Engineering Library.
▴The Science and Engineering Library is established(1983)
▴The College of Engineering Building #2(1985)
Many aspects of the Sciences Campus have changed since you were undergraduates. The College of Engineering Building #2, which is one of the landmarks of the Sciences Campus, will soon be demolished. Do you have any specific memories related to the building?
Kim: I taught many classes there. At that time, Professor Min-heung Han of the Department of Industrial Engineering was working on developing a driverless vehicle, and his office was above the drafting room of the Department of Architecture. Early in the mornings, I could hear his prototype vehicle running up and down the hallway of the upper floor. After becoming a professor studying the history of architecture, I learned more about the history of the building. It was initially designed to be occupied by the College of Medicine, which was not yet established, and the construction began in 1957. But then the completion was delayed due to several reasons. In March 1964, the building was finally completed. The eastern part of the building was occupied by the Department of Liberal Arts and the western part by the Department of Engineering. It was an odd combination. In July 1968, the Department of Science moved to where the Department of Liberal Arts used to be, and the building became fully occupied by the students of the College of Science and Engineering.
Choi: It is fair to say that the College of Engineering Building #2 has been the cradle of science and engineering talents cultivated by Korea University. When I was a student, engineering students took some of the liberal arts classes in the West and East Wings and most classes in the Science and Engineering Library. The College of Engineering Building #2 accommodated professors’ offices and labs. When I was a graduate student, the College of Engineering Building #2 was my lab and dorm. I used to stay up late working in the building and slept on foam boards I had picked up from construction sites.
Korea University has shown remarkable growth in research outputs in the fields of science and engineering. The KU campus’ architectural landscape has changed rapidly. The Sciences Campus is still undergoing new construction, building renovations, and infrastructure improvements. As experts in your respective fields, what are your takes on these changes—the past and present of architecture on the Sciences Campus?
Choi: I don’t know much in details about these changes, because I’m no longer a KU student. From the perspective of an outsider, it seems to me that the buildings on campus are now clustered by function or usage and are spread evenly throughout the campus. I wish I could go back to college and enjoy all these new facilities and amenities on campus.
Sim: Most university campus construction projects (homogeneous campus) start with master planning and are carried out according to the master plan. But this method is hard to apply to old universities like Korea University. You must take into account the locations of existing buildings. Since there is no master plan and new buildings are built as needed, it has become a heterogeneous campus. More space was needed to accommodate the growing population of students. As a result, there is lack of connectivity between adjacent buildings and the university’s identity as National KU became blurred.
Moreover, the locations of new buildings are inconsistent with feng shui. A campus design is not just about making the campus look good, but also about how students interact with one another in this space. One of the most serious problems about KU’s Seoul Campus is that it takes over 10 minutes to move between the Humanities Campus and the Sciences Campus. We need a new passage, a shortcut, which connects the two parts of the campus, whether it is underground or aboveground.
Kim: As the number of buildings is growing, green spaces are disappearing. Of course, the first priority should be to provide students with the classrooms and labs they need. Architecture and design can solve this problem. Architects should find creative and budget-conscious solutions, but it’s easier said than done.
Sim: It’s no longer easy to find 50-plus year old trees on the KU Campus. Large trees and plants disappeared with the construction of Hana Square. The soil of the green space in Hana Square is not deep enough for trees and shrubs to become established. The campus needs more tall trees that offer shade to the students.
Some say that Aegineung is the only place that hasn’t changed. Do you have any personal memories related to Aegineung?
Choi: Aegineung has changed, too. When I was an undergraduate, it was a treeless hill with grass. One day, I went to Aegineung after a long time away, and it was filled with flowers. I thought to myself, “Well, our efforts have finally paid off.” My friends and I have a lot of good memories about Aegineung. We used to play guitar, drink makgeolli (rice wine), and hang out at this place.
Kim: The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of Aegineung is the scent of acacia flowers in spring. One afternoon, I dozed off on the grass at Aegineung. When I woke up, I almost got sunburnt and I ached all over. Taking a nap on grass is not as romantic as it sounds.
Sim: Aegineung is where the tomb of King Jeongjo’s consort Won of the Hong clan in the Joseon Dynasty used to be situated. It’s a great location from a feng shui perspective. It used to be where students could take a nap and relax. But royal azaleas were planted on Aegineung to celebrate Korea University’s one-hundredth anniversary. Now there’s no grass to lie down on. University campuses have unique requirements and should be planned and designed by someone well versed in campus design. Korea University has no full-time landscaping manager, which is very unfortunate.
You have different views on KU’s campus design, but I can feel how much you care about Korea University. What is the last message you want to give to our readers?
Choi: To cultivate science talents in the 21st century, Korea University should aim to balance quantitative and qualitative growth. It should provide students with access to high quality facilities and equipment as well as a wide variety of academic programs and opportunities to interact with parties outside the campus. Our society needs more scientific vision and scientific understanding. The knowledge students gain on campus should facilitate academic-industrial cooperation and entrepreneurship. I hope that the Sciences Campus can provide an incubator for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Kim: In the 1930s, stone pagodas were very important symbols in the history of modern architecture of Korea University, but this architectural tradition has disappeared. We can still find the influence of stone pagodas on the Humanities Campus. I think the Sciences Campus should establish its identity as the center of progressive and modern architecture, embracing advanced technologies and design and even avant-garde discourses. Architecture is not just about looks. It’s also about values and philosophies. In this regard, we should pay more attention to sustainable and eco-friendly energy-saving architecture.
Sim: I hope Korea University strengthens its identity as National KU. Whenever I give campus tours to visitors from other countries, I find that many buildings on our campus look like those you can find on any university campus in the U.S. The campus of Peking University was designed by an American architect, but the buildings and landscaping on its campus are Chinese style. During the Beijing Olympics, marathon athletes running through the campus of Peking University was televised around the world. I hope Korea University has a campus that reflects its identity as National KU.
SIM, Woo-kyung (Horticulture, 1967) Hyon-sob KIM (Architecture, 1992), Hyuk-jae Choi (Industrial Engineering, 1988)