William & Florence Schmidt Art Center, Southwestern Illinois College
Architect Sung Ho Kim recently exhibited 10 models that explore alternative design strategies relevant to sculpture. His unique forms based on non-linear thinking, intuition, and abstraction respond to cultural, spatial, technological, and human needs. At 33, Kim is just starting his career. This digital whiz kid develops his virtual building designs using complex modeling and animation tools culled from the automotive, aerospace, and film industries. Like Daniel Libeskind, Frank Gehry, and other leading architects, he has Ove Arup & Partners engineer his complex projects. But, in contrast to Gehry’s monumentality, Kim uses scale to create intimacy between the viewer and each structure.
The Admotiv Headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand, is a poetic and elastic grid-like skyscraper of steel, concrete, and glass. Its slender 27 stories seem to float in space above an urban footprint with green spaces and parking. The undulating designs moving up the face of the building in fact indicate structural elements. The engineered hyper-surface bends and warps at the upper levels to hold, for example, water for a swimming pool. There is also an indoor climbing wall—a big sport for Bangkok executives. Because of the high water content of the site, the support system is structurally flexible and specifically designed to interact with its geography. The building is a new type of branding for Admotiv, an advertising agency, and is estimated to cost about $85 million.
The Slavery Memorial in Nantes, France, is notable for a design that integrates public and private space. Its horizontal structure embodies the urban condition and hovers at the water’s edge, like a streamlined yacht or the bow of a large ship designed to hold and release water. Images from the history of slavery in the region are projected onto multiple surfaces, so that the face of the building blurs and dissolves in relation to the images on its skin.
The Book House, for a client with a beach site in Narragansett, Rhode Island, has interior surfaces that fold, changing from wall to floor to terrace and transforming into furniture like tables and shelves. The structural skin holds this column-free building together. “It’s like a Miesian space, but each section is freeform rather than static,” Kim noted. “Our buildings challenge architectural practice. I have nothing to lose. I ask myself and my students to redefine the world. If we rely on practical reasons or operations only, we wouldn’t need the arts.”
Sung Ho Kim is the Design Principal of Axi:Ome LLC, a design studio in St. Louis that boasts a seven-person design team of young talent from top institutions. He is also Assistant Professor of Digital Media & Design at the School of Architecture, Washington University. Kim was educated at the Art Students League of New York, the Rhode Island School of Design, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His cutting-edge concepts derive, in part, from his education at the Architectural Association in London, where Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, and Nicholas Grimshaw also studied. Kim’s models emphasize engineering and craftsmanship as part of their process, yet also seem like sculpture scaled for human occupancy.