Perpetual Spring

Perpetual Spring

OBRA Architects
Seoul, South Korea | View Map
Project Year


Perpetual Spring

OBRA Architects as Architects


That a revolution prefers fair weather is an assertion that can be historically attested first with The Spring of Nations of 1848, with The Prague Spring of 1968 and, more recently, with The Arab Spring of 2010. Perpetual Spring is an installation that aspires to artificially perpetuate, into the fall and winter, the climatic conditions propitious to progressive social change, artificially creating the kind of weather that invites to human interaction, community organization and the debate of ideas: clear skies, pleasant temperatures and abundant flowering greenery. Perpetual Spring is a work of optimism, posing that the current weather crisis affecting the planet does not have to inevitably end in catastrophic global disaster if we organize to take rational care of the planet, our shared home.


And so it is by way of a machine that we can then attempt to prefigure both, some kind of future and its denial at the same time. If the prevalent economic system has provided storage of the efforts of the many for the benefit of the few, the machine is both empowerment and substitute of human agency towards the transformation of the world into a home. It should come as no surprise then, that the anticipated fundamental presence in the coming city of impersonalized artificial intelligence is still that of the machine.


The unfulfilled promise of modernity in general, and of the Modern Movement in architecture in particular, is that of finally gaining control over the time of our lives, freedom from labor and the possibility to pursue our self-realization and finally attempt to become who we really should have been. The machine is the preeminent tool in that struggle. Perpetual Spring is then intended as both concrete and abstract machine, as a place where the very real parameters of a weather gone awry can be rudimentarily tweaked both as modest example and proposed symbolic ritual, and as the repository collective efforts towards a meta-technology, if the rightful ownership of people’s machines has been confiscated in obsessive fixation with individualism—the antidote for fear—, new machines shall be invented through a popular effort towards an alternative technology.


This year, the 50th anniversary of the Museum Of Modern and Contemporary Art MMCA coincides with the centennial of the establishment of the Korean Provisional Government in Shanghai on April 11, 1919: the birth of an ongoing revolution. The year also marks the 100th anniversary of Emperor Gojung’s death, and to commemorate his spirit of innovative urban planning of modern Seoul in the year 2019, Architecture and Heritage: Unearthing Future will connect outdoor spaces at the heart of the city’s center and provide a platform for commissioned architects to reflect upon Seoul’s modern heritage while highlighting issues facing urban life in the world of today and its future. The Perpetual Spring Pavilion, designed by Obra Architects in collaboration with Front Inc., ObraAbim and Gami Design Lab, will occupy the front courtyard of the museum from the 21st of September 2019 to the 5th of April 2020.


The urgency of the global climate-change crisis should be self-evident to all but the very dull-minded or the hopelessly dishonest. The situation has developed in such a way that by now the social issues of happiness and fairness to all—the very possibility of a future—have seamlessly morphed into the resolution of the climate crisis the earth is confronting. The massive extinction of animal species, scarcity of water and food, catastrophic tornadoes and typhoons, the impending migration of starving populations, and future wars triggered by climate instability are increasingly acknowledged to be generated by the same forces that have oppressed people since the beginning of history.


The flowering rebirth of culture, driven by freedom-seeking youth has, throughout history, been the manifestation of the struggle for liberation, a more just society and a perfected democratic union of people. We propose to use the artificial creation of spring weather inside the pavilion during Seoul months of cold weather as a poetic device that will claim a humble place in the historical progression of the metaphorical use of the word "spring": the Spring of Nations, the Prague Spring, the Arab Spring, etc.


The Perpetual Spring Pavilion will serve as a one-of-a-kind prototype showcasing the functional aspects of urban community gathering: a building as an artificially-controlled greenhouse machine to address and bring attention to a pressing global issue of our time: climate change. Combining form and destination with function, the Pavilion is proposed as a “climate-correcting machine,” both a platform for awareness and an invitation to action.


As if it were the head of some giant insect, the Perpetual Spring Pavilion will be outfitted with 150 "eyes," each a 90 centimeter-diameter polycarbonate plastic semi-sphere. These crystalline luminous "eyes" will bulge out of the pavilion's otherwise dull metallic mass as if compelled to expand by an overwhelmingly strong internal force. Ambiguously, they will separate interior and exterior, while generously allowing into the space the sunshine that will contribute towards keeping the space warm during the cold days of fall and winter.


Adding the equipment necessary for the assemblage of an artificial climate-correcting machine, the Pavilion will also be outfitted with a variable climate control system including photovoltaic panels on the museum's nearby roof. These panels will power automatic exhaust fans, aluminum foil curtains and a phase-change radiant floor-heating system in order to stabilize and balance temperatures inside the space and preserve permanent spring weather-like conditions. A specially designed garden inside the Pavilion will be grown during the fall and winter months. Audio-visual displays will inform visitors in real time about climatic and environmental data on a global scale.


This project is a demonstration, a chance to focus public attention on issues of the city, climate change, our environment, and the future. In this unique experimental installation, we combine elements that will be used as a public platform for events, to further broadcast our message as both a work of architecture, a work of art + technology + engineering, a work of social impact. We have designed the Perpetual Spring Pavilion to be on display and in use in a public courtyard of one of the most-frequented and visible institutions in the city of Seoul. The placement positions the pavilion for widest reach and greatest impact of the message.


Founded on the idea that creating a true space of free public expression is already a radical way of questioning the ways in which the city is reproduced and expanded today, the Pavilion, once erected on the grounds of the museum, will serve as a space of public use and activity gifted to the city of Seoul by the MMCA. Offering a place of comfort during days of severe weather, the Pavilion will be a free open access venue for a variety of public uses including: public lectures, poetry readings, theater, music, dance performances, discussion groups of all kinds, book club sessions, etc. Special guests will also be invited to talk about issues related to the intersection between the emergency global climate crisis and the prospects for the unlikely rise of authentic democratic rule and universal justice.

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