One of the biggest criticisms levelled against globetrotting architects over the past several years is how incongruent their constructs can be, with many of their buildings appearing on sites as if dropped there from the sky.
For his latest London project, South Korean artist Do Ho Suh puts his own clever spin on the phenomenon, perching a replica of a traditional Korean house atop an East End footbridge. The work, which is called Bridging Home, London, was installed in the British capital’s financial district in September and will be in place for six months.
It is Suh’s first large-scale outdoor installation in London and is intended to provoke reflection among passersby on modern migration, “the multiplicity of the immigrant experience” and the idea of “home as both a physical structure and a lived experience.”
“This unexpected apparition triggers a hiatus and a detournement, taking passersby to lands far away,” says curator Fatos Ustek, who shepherded the installation on behalf of Art Night and Sculpture in the City, the two British organizations that co-commissioned the work. “Most importantly, the piece activates feelings of home, belonging and remembrance that will resonate with viewers on their individual journeys.”
The peripatetic artist – a nomad who divides his time among Seoul, New York and London – adds: “For me, a building is more than just space. It is not only physical but also metaphorical and psychological. In my work I want to draw out these intangible qualities of energy, history, life and memory. While Bridging Home, London comes from personal experience, I hope it is something a lot of people can relate to.”
In addition to the replicated house, the installation also incorporates a bamboo garden, which was designed in collaboration with HOK and the faux-plant outfit Blooming Artificial. Both were situated – the house in a seemingly precarious fashion – on a footbridge above Wormwood Street, one of the busiest roads in the City of London, near Liverpool Street Station. Adding to the discordance of a modest Korean home sitting above a bustling thoroughfare is the fact that it’s surrounded by high-rises, all the steel and glass of the city’s architecture simultaneously bearing down on and reflecting the smaller wooden structure.
“Bridging Home, London will transform a special, unusual space [amid] the hustle and bustle of the City of London, and we look forward to seeing the artwork engaged with by the many visitors, residents and commuters in the area,” say Art Night co-founders Ksenia Zemtsova and Philippine Nguyen.
While the Wormwood Street project is Suh’s most ambitious project to date in London, it isn’t his first in the city. For Art Night 2017, the artist mounted a video installation in Christ Church Spitalfields that showed two previous video pieces: Passage/s from 2015 and My Home/s from 2016.
Elsewhere, Suh’s solo exhibitions and site-specific installations, almost all of which have focused on transitory or connecting spaces and the ways in which people travel through them both physically and metaphorically, have been staged in institutions ranging from the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul to the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.
Suh also represented South Korea at the 49th Venice Biennale in 2001 and participated in the 12th and 16th Venice Architecture Biennales in 2010 and 2018 respectively.