A structure clad in granite walls and arched windows stands alone on a large grass area. The structure reaches up to the sky, towering above all of its surroundings, grand and formidable. Its heavy shadow intimidates the people below , its mere presence humbles the fiercest man. The structure is not a medieval castle. It is a building on the Anam Campus of Korea University (KU).
The KU Anam Campus is widely recognized for its architectural aesthetics. With its mix of classic and modern buildings, KU offers students a splendid environment to stay in. Many of the buildings at KU date back several decades, while some have only been constructed within the last few years.
However, certain problems take away from the benefits students can reap from these buildings. These problems affect both the pleasure of viewing these buildings and the practical utilization of the offered academic environment.
▲ Photographed by Kang Hyun Ji
Splendors and Magnificence
Beauty that is hardly matched by any other architecture in the area. Most buildings are modeled to resemble western classic castles and towers. As such, they are clad with granite walls, arched doorways, magnificent columns, and wide windows.
A notable building exhibiting this exterior is the Main Hall, strategically located in the center of the campus. Built in 1934 when Bosung College had not yet been elevated to KU, the building is a representative landmark of KU and signifies the university’s long history and time endured. Additionally, it holds historical significance as a building designed by Korean architect Park Dong Jin and funded with national capital during the time of the Japanese Occupation. The building’s exterior is, as with that of most aged structures in the university, reminiscent of a European mansion or castle. It stands formidable behind the main gates, with its granite walls and windows staring out into the horizon. Owing to its placement on the campus and architectural beauty, the building is regarded as the symbolic feature of KU.
One of the troika of KU along with the Main Hall, the College of Liberal Arts follows the Main Hall's steps in adorning the Anam Campus with architectural aesthetics. The building was completed in 1964, well after Bosung College had been promoted to KU. As with the Main Hall, it is a legacy of architect Park Dong Jin and a landmark feature of KU.
The College of Liberal Arts sports an exterior carved with elaborate designs and an arched entrance. A monumental feature is its watchtower, which spikes up toward the sky from the corner of its r-shaped structure. The College of Liberal Arts is intended as a complementary structure to the Main Library, which is also shaped like an “r” with a tower at the corner, on the eastern part of campus. All in all, the building is the epitome of KU’s stylish architectural feat.
The same can be seen in the buildings on the north (right from the Main Gate) side of the campus. The Business School Main Building is a simple structure located on the far right side of the campus. While the design is kept modest, the contrast of the granite walls and emerald windows nonetheless produces a pleasurable experience for the eyes of the viewers. In addition, the grassed area in front of the building enhances the simplistic beauty of the structure’s physical features.
The LG-POSCO Business Hall in contrast, holds a much fancier exterior. Like the Main Hall of KU it is structured with a classic medieval appearance, with the altar-like pointed top protruding upward, typical outer stone walls exquisitely carved to imitate stacked bricks, and arched windows glazing amidst the granite background. In a way, the building resembles a grand church.
Yet the interior of the same structure is clad with modern facilities and lecture rooms. The floors are tiled with limestone, while lecture rooms are laid out in a circular shape so as to optimize communication between the professor and students. The building also includes several lounges offering students a place to take a break from their classes.
The LG-POSCO Business Hall has successfully combined its antique exterior with its modern interior to create a masterpiece of a structure. With such features, the building is a favorite site of many business students.
Meanwhile, KU has made attempts to have some of its newer buildings take a more modern appearance. The third business building, the Hyundai Motor Business Hall, has just had its construction completed and will be available for lectures this semester. Built with a donated fund nearing 45 billion won, the hall is to offer top-class facilities for any relevant individuals. A notable point about this newest business building is that it has discarded the castle-like appearance and features that are characteristic of its business building counterparts. The Hyundai Motor Business Hall’s walls are comprised of large, navy blue windows, and the structure itself is shaped in an efficiently rectangular fashion with few of the points and decorations the other business buildings possess.
▲ Photographed by Kang Hyun Ji
A Crack in the Walls
Despite their splendid physical appearance, KU buildings are known to have some definite flaws that undermine their quality. Owing to the long age KU buildings have endured, their internal facilities are often outdated and fall short of the external splendor.
Most of the facilities in the College of Liberal Arts including the lecture rooms and temperature controlling systems are outdated, and the building lacks any available study rooms or libraries. The internal flaw of these facilities can be attributed to the long history of the building, over half a century.
The problem is that the building is intended to accommodate all students of the College of Liberal Arts. Yet the structure is not nearly large enough to satisfy the needs of the several thousands of students.
In another case, the lack of internal facilities available for students actually renders the building itself obsolete for students. Due to a lack of equipment available for student use, the Main Hall is not open to lectures and students and is instead used as the university headquarters where the university president’s office, the department of treasury, and the department of administration are located. This has led students to question the practicality of the Main Hall, as in spite of the building’s grand size, students have not been able to take advantage of any of the facilities within.
Ironically, another drawback of the KU buildings is in their diverse architectural beauty. Due to a mix of modern and classic designs, the older and newer KU buildings seem inharmonious and out of context when placed side by side. The business buildings, when individually observed, are all exquisite works of architecture and design. However, the more modern features of the Hyundai Motor Business Hall seem out of place next to the more historical features of the other two business buildings. In a way, the combination of these buildings almost seems anachronistic.
The Way to Go
KU’s buildings are currently in a state of uncertainty. While each building, when individually viewed, does exhibit architectural magnificence, certain problems plague the overall Anam Campus. The internal facilities of several buildings do not meet the standards set by their physical appearance, while the newer buildings of modern design are incompatible with the older buildings of a more classic design.
Another significant issue is the buildings' incompatibility with the university identity. KU prides itself as the "people's school,” yet the campus buildings are based on western medieval castles. While what has been built cannot be razed and these buildings do exude elegant beauty, KU definitely needs to consider addressing these issues.
While KU ranks among the top universities of Korea, remaining stagnant will inadvertently cause the university to deteriorate in quality. The university continuously needs to strive for improvement, and it should start with its facilities and buildings. For KU to stay at the top, it needs to provide the top educational environment.