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Landscape architect behind Seonyudo gets retrospective at MMCA

June 12, 2024 - 15:37 By Park Yuna
An installation view of the exhibition “Jung Youngsun: For All That Breathes On Earth” at MMCA (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)

South Korea’s landscape architect Jung Young-sun is a pioneer -- she spent half a century exploring landscape practice since the 1970s, when the country's focus was still on rapid economic and industrial recovery from the Korean War.

The debut retrospective exhibition by Korea's first female landscape architect at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea titled “Jung Youngsun: For All That Breathes On Earth” shows 60 projects through 500 archival materials from her early years to the present.

Visitors can see Jung's garden created for the exhibition at the museum’s sunken outdoor Gallery Madang Garden, inspired by the beauty of Inwangsan, the stone mountain in Jongno-gu, Seoul. The garden filled with ferns and wildflowers will change over the seasons until the exhibition ends in September. Another newly created garden by Jung is located at the outdoor Jongchinbu Madang at the rear of the museum grounds.

Visitors look around the Gallery Madang Garden at MMCA which is part of the exhibition “Jung Youngsun: For All That Breathes On Earth” on April 9. (Park Yuna/The Korea Herald)

Born in 1941, Jung spent her childhood in the orchard run by her grandfather, later becoming the first graduate student at Seoul National University’s environmental planning institute. She became a professor at Cheongju University where she devoted herself to academic research and working as the first female licensed land developer engineer.

In 1987, Jung founded SeoAhn Total Landscape (STL) and has been in charge of public and private projects on varying scales as a landscape architect.

"Innisfree of Jeju Osulloc View" by Jung Young-sun (Photo by Kimg Young-kwan)

“I felt distress and was in agony seeing all the obscure buildings on my way to a field trip to Gangwon Province and thinking what all the architects and landscape architects have done. … For the past 30 years, South Korea’s rural landscapes have changed very rapidly -- even in what feels like a fleeing moment -- becoming how they look today,” Jung wrote in the column in Korean “Importance of Rural Landscape and Expectation Towards Architects” in 2006 where she expressed agony and responsibility as a landscape architect.

While Jung is a landscape architect, she is also known as a writer. The title of the exhibition “For All That Breathes On Earth” was inspired by a poem written by Shin Kyeong-nim, one of Jung's favorite poets, according to the museum.

"Heewon Planting Existing Plan" by Jung Young-sun (Courtesy of STL)

In the section “Reinventing Korean Gardens,” the exhibition looks into gardens that have actively adopted traditional Korean methods of planting, landscaping, and organizing space. Among the projects is “Heewon” created in 1997 at the Hoam Museum of Art, known for its beauty in all four seasons and for the traditional elements that Jung took inspiration from.

Some projects include Jung’s efforts to revive nature in abandoned wetlands. The projects “Yeouido Saetgang Ecological Park (1997, 2007)” and “Seonyudo Park (2001)” and “Paju Book City (2012-2014)” are all featured in the exhibition.

"Yeouido Saetgang Ecological Park" designed by Jung Young-sun (Photo Jung Ji-hyun)