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About Leeum

About Leeum


Sensuous images actualized by high technology and contemporary art

Jean Nouvel, whose designs are at the junction of high technology and contemporary art, defines architecture as “space-constructing skills and image-manufacturing tasks”. The Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art’s Museum 2 envisioned Jean Nouvel’s design process.

With trees on the ground, the structure of Jean Nouvel’s Museum 2, which grandly arises from the carved ground, symbolizes the endless generation of contemporary art. The main components of the overground are exterior glass walls and rectangular cubes of various sizes.
These randomly placed exhibition boxes provide audiences brand-new exhibition experiences and contribute to visitors’ overall dynamic experience. The Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art’s Museum 2 will be used as a permanent exhibition space for the works of the world’s best contemporary artists such as Donald Judd and Damien Hirst, as well as artworks by Korean modern and contemporary artists. Audiences will enter through the lobby.

Rusted stainless-steel was used, for the first time anywhere, to manufacture the exhibition boxes. Countless tests and sample analyzation were done to visualize this paradoxical concept – that rust-proof stainless-steel could be rusted. Museum 2, like contemporary art that yields new meanings from objects by observing them paradoxically, sanctifies the whole building as a gigantic art piece through materials and spaces far beyond the conventional.

Architects Jean Nouvel, Ground area 1,653㎡, Foor area 4,959㎡, Scale F2, B3

Architect Tour

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Materials of architectures

Stark contrasts between transparent glasses and rusted stainless-steel panels

Museum 2’s main building materials are extra white glass of extreme transparency and rusted stainless steel panels.
Freely arranged exhibition boxes, which are projected from the glass surface, invoke substantial and unique responses because of the rusted stainless-steel panels.
Leeum architectural designer and corrosion specialist Mark Quinlan has done countless experiments to confirm that rust proof stainless-steel could be rusted, and has invented the “black-filmed stainless-steel” – the so-called “Black Patina”. The exhibition boxes, which are covered by “Black Patina”, form irregular geometric lines and, from the inside, shield exhibition spaces from the artwork; when viewed from the outside, they strengthen an impression that the building digs deep into the ground and then rises up again – because of the unique feeling of heaviness created by the metal.

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Gabion Walls and Sunken Garden

Expressing the path of materials from nature by employing materials from construction sites

The concept of Museum 2 is preserving naturally formed underground wall surfaces, which were created when digging the ground to build a foundation.
In other words, the building and the ground are facing each other because the building was pushed slightly into the margin of the basement that appeared when the ground was dug.
The space between the basement wall surface and the buildings is Sunken Garden. Sunken Garden opens upwardly and receives the same amount of sunlight as the overground. The outer surface of the basement wall was built by stacking up “gabion”, which contains crushed quarried stones from construction sites in iron frames.
These iron frames and quarried stones, along with trees which arose from Sunken Garden, create a minimalistic impression.
Audiences can casually detect imprints which were made by this building from the inside and outside of the building.
Jean Nouvel has emphasized the relationship between the ground and the building in hopes that others will recognize it and sympathize with the building’s aging.

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Exhibition Space

“A freely moving space” that accentuates the characteristics of contemporary art

The main exhibition hall was built as an open space without any supporting posts by employing post-tension building techniques.
“A freely moving space” was designed to offer exhibitions emphasizing the distinctiveness of contemporary art.
Further, dark exhibition boxes create a space in which light and dark are blended in harmony by allowing a ray of light to shine through the cracks of the ceiling.
The space in the middle of the floor, which is installed between two projected balcony areas visible from the first floor, is used to play videos and showcase visual media.
Museum 2, designed to be flexible to the requirements of each exhibit by controlling light, offers audiences unique and diverse experiences.


Jean Nouvel ― An Artist who Writes Poetry of the Future, with Architectural Images

  • Jean Nouvel
    • Please listen to the story of spaces which are as diverse as the branches and roots of trees.
    • visit web site

The French-born architect, Jean Nouvel, is a world-renowned figure not only in architecture but in many areas of culture and arts. Born in 1945, he got admitted to the prestigious École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris as the first in his class. His genius was already in the working at that young age.

"I put art in the architecture, and the architecture in the city."

Jean Nouvel has been active in many areas of architecture. In 1976, he led the French architectural movement, Mars 1976; in 1980, he was in charge of planning for the arts programs in the Paris architectural biennale. In 1983, he was awarded the Knight of the Order of Arts and the Letters.
The Arab cultural center in Paris, completed in 1987, is among his masterpieces; it was received with raving reviews for its simplicity that seems to express the relationship between the Arab world and the European culture, and conflicts between tradition and modernity. His other works include the Cartier foundation in Paris, Lyong opera house, and the Andel building in Prague, which was completed recently. And the completion of his Agba Tower is just around the corner, which will be Barcelona’s next monumental landmark, along with Antoni Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia church.

Jean Nouvel has expressed in many of his works the contemporary and futuristic sentiment of cities. Frequently using glass, steel, and other “cold, hard” materials, he creates sharp and sophisticated images. His designs are oftentimes described as a massive work of art. He contends that architecture be raised to join the ranks of poetry, and designs his works as dictated by his instinct and intuition, like so many artists do. A hybrid of cutting-edge technology and contemporary art esthetics, his architecture is progressive as well as provocative.

Why he designs to his intuition, and why his architecture is brimming with poetic images is revealed in his own words:

“Luckily, there is no right answer or only answer in architecture. There are only countless pathetic answers and numerous exciting answers. It is enough, therefore, for an architect to come up with a “realizable” answer. But such an answer is oftentimes (surprisingly) too simple, or clear yet (paradoxically) undecipherable.”

An interview VOD

Architect Interview

장 누벨 Jean Nouvelle

Geometric box-like units that compose the building
are assembled each facing different directions.
Movable walls installed inside the building can create variations
in display according to exhibition themes.

Interview with the architect

"Please listen to the story of spaces which are as diverse as the branches and roots of trees."

What did you feel when you decided to take the Leeum project? And what is the primary concept for the project?

I took on this project a long time ago. At that time, there were several other buildings in the lot. My initial concept was to take into consideration the relationship between the building and the topography, and to arrange the layout such that the building will be situated at the center of the dent in the lot, along with other structures.

I mean the dent by a space with long traces of the city, not a blank space or clean slate. That’s where I first started with this project, but as it became more concrete, I realized that the building must “shoot out” from the massive ground in order for it to look like it’s part of the topography. So that’s how I designed my building, and the visits to the museum will get the feeling that the structure has escaped a space deep down the Earth. Even the trees: they will be planted not where the entrance is located, but about 10 to 15 meters lower than the entrance level. The building is an embodiment of contrasts between horizontal lines and curves. It will also embody a wide variety of contours that resemble the contours of the lot. It may seem somewhat arbitrary, but the inner space to be created will be the one with many possibilities, depending on the differences and directions.