VGTU Graduate's Project Receives Recognition in North Korea

2013-08-30, 11:39
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VGTU graduate architect Karolis Kazlauskas, who works in architecture company "PLT Planning and Architecture" in Shanghai, recently received the world media attention. His proposed Wonsan airport reconstruction project was very positively evaluated by the country's leader Kim Jong Un.

However, the architect K. Kazlauskas does not give too much prominence to Kim Jong Un's praise: because not only words, but investment and the possibility to realize the project are needed for the implementation of any project.

Here is the interview with the architect K. Kazlauskas about work and creativity in one of the most mysterious countries.

How long have you been developing the concept of Wonsan airport? Will the airport be different from those in other countries?

The creative process lasted for one or two weeks. After that followed the implementation of the idea: development of visualizations, search for functions, presentations.

The exceptional feature of the airport is that in the center of the building, depending on weather conditions, it is proposed to establish an open or closed park with water installations. It is, however, only the initial concept, follow-up actions depend on the government and investors' decisions.

The possibility of implementation of the concept is a question for discussions, in both functional and financial terms. As a rule, airports are designed taking into consideration only the practical side and partly the architectural. This concept of the airport includes both practical and cultural (form of the building reminds of traditional drums), and ecological aspects.

You have mentioned that your inspiration is influenced by North Korean traditions. Was it difficult to get accustomed to them?

Before creating anything, one needs inspiration. When I received this order, together with my adviser we thought of what could bring at least some charm to the country, which is known in the world to be unique in all aspects. In fact, we could not find anything that would inspire us: neither the past or present, nor the future.

However, our work is creative, therefore, we did not push in the political affairs. Any country has its own traditions and cultural past. This was our starting point. Koreans are renowned for their traditional dances accompanied by different types of drums. Thus, the creative process started from this.

My adviser asked me to develop this idea further. After my research into different types of drums, I chose two of them: one drum has inwardly cup-shaped form, and the other is outwardly-shaped. Having this in mind, I used a concave drum form for the internal airport facade, which is made of glass and hanging glass facade system.

The external metal constructions of the building's facade are of the outside convex drum shape. These are the main building-supporting constructions. The form of the structure is similar to the intense ropes system that is surrounding the drum. All of this, joined in one building, became a quite laconic traditions-reflecting architectural solution.

One of the most interesting observations is that in the central part of the airport there will be a park with plants and water installations. The function of this park is the departure lounge.

Depending on weather conditions, the park may be open or closed as a winter garden. I doubt, if there is at least one airport in the world with an open park. I had to consult the design company "Mott MacDonald" airport specialists in Hong Kong about the possibility of functional implementation of this idea. This company has implemented more than one interesting architectural airport project.

One of such projects is Hong Kong international airport designed by Norman Foster, one of the most renowned architects in the world. Moreover, it is a potential project, in which it will be offered to implement architectural sound design, both inside and outside.

Everyone is aware that the airport is the business card of any country, when meeting guests of different status. And if this business card reflects the cultural and traditional aspects, this only strengthens the image of the country at a global level.

Of course, this project will need a lot of work if it will see the light of the day and won't be put into the drawer. The only question is: should I be happy or sad about the fact that this airport concept has been noticed by the country's leader Kim Jong Un, who has expressed great admiration for it.

The agent informed us that the head of the state wishes to see a new airport concept in Pyongan, the capital of North Korea, that would be not less impressive than the idea for Wonsan airport.

How have you landed up in Hong Kong?

I have got a job offer. Officially I am employed in Hong Kong, however, the architecture company has an office in Shanghai, therefore, most of my time I spend there.

Is knowledge acquired during studies useful in your work?

Of course, knowledge, acquired during my studies, helps me very much. However, Asia-wide projects scopes are many times bigger as compared with the projects planned during the studies at VGTU. So I have to adapt to the local market at a significant pace.

I have acquired knowledge about green architecture benefits for society during Master's studies in Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt universities in Scotland. I believe, this direction should be further emphasized at VGTU Faculty of Architecture.

Is green architecture and construction, which only gains pace in Lithuania, popular in North Korea?

Lithuanians are still frequently dealing with local issues, and do not think about global warming and CO2 emissions. This is also an issue in China, but it is dealt with intensively for many years now. Green architecture at least partly contributes to it. The Chinese start putting much value upon ecological architecture. For a long time now, parks on the roof and stores to reduce CO2 emissions are not new to them.

They also value and appreciate new trends, such as interactive architecture and architectural sound design (sound architecture), when people are encouraged to communicate and cooperate with buildings. In other words, buildings are responsive to people's actions in them and cause certain emotions and feelings.

I think it is too early to speak about the development of green architecture in North Korea. The majority of buildings in this country have typical communist features. If, in fact, this project will be implemented, I believe, it will become a visiting-card of North Korea.

Have green architecture ideas been used in the concept of the airport?

Definitely. Open (closed) park, water installations, roof perimeter is planned to be covered with solar cells.

Nevertheless, what North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's praise and attention meant to you?

Well, it depends. I do not know, whether to be happy or sad about Kim Jong Un's praise for this project in view of the country that is suffering from food shortage. However, without going into the politics, it is always a pleasure when you are noticed and evaluated by someone.

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