A house, a well and a garden—a shared space for gathering, learning, rest and contemplation. This was the fundamental concept behind Future School’s occupation of the Korean Pavilion. This is not a space for consumption, but a space for living, for exchanges and for discussion. The Korean Pavilion is a unique structure within the Giardini of La Biennale di Venezia. Built in 1994–1995 to a design by Seok Chul Kim and Franco Mancuso, the only permanent part of the structure is a pre-existing brick toilet block. The rest of the building is, ostensibly, temporary and built around the mature trees on the site. This means that it is not the square box with straight walls and controlled lighting that some curators would desire it to be. Instead, it is transparent, with glass walls and unexpected curves, flooded with sunlight. Future School seeks to embrace the original intention behind the pavilion’s creation, revealing the story behind it while also exploring the full potential and quality of its architecture to host a new kind of school. The openness of the pavilion becomes its greatest asset, connecting the interior to the garden of the Giardini beyond its walls and creating a place of gathering.
This vision has been brought to life through a close partnership with Future School’s spatial design team, Ryul Song and Christian Schweitzer of SUPA Architects. The brick box at the heart of the pavilion is transformed, emulating the style of a traditional Korean house, with handmade hanji paper floors. A circular grass carpet by landscape architect Ah-Yeon Kim becomes a symbolic space of assembly. A modest kitchen, made possible by the existing plumbing within the pavilion, allows participants to offer tea and water to visitors, served in Jeju Onggi ceramics. An undulating Process Wall hosts an evolving, layered display of exhibitions and outputs, alongside the full programme of Future School, organised across A4 sheets of paper. A cluster of screens provides an exhibitionary platform for media. The roof—never before used as part of a Biennale Architettura exhibition—becomes a common space as part of the Curators Collective initiative. These physical spaces are complemented by the virtual space of Future School’s online platform. The two are inseparable, providing each other both content and context.
With the climate crisis high on the list of urgent issues the school will engage with, it was also important to pursue a strategy that would minimise the environmental impact of the physical pavilion. This demanded a design that could be created by reusing what already existed wherever possible, with minimum shipping of new materials and as little waste left at the end as possible.
The realisation of this ambition has been a true collaboration between the team in Korea, the small family of keepers of the Korean Pavilion that have been caring for the structure and its flow of temporary occupants for more than a decade, and the contractors in Venice. This positive exchange of knowledge and expertise toward a common goal echoes the ethos behind all of Future School's programming.