Anyone interested in the transporting power of architectural illustration should get on a plane to Chicago to see Doodle Constructivism, the installation of drawings by Seoul-based architect Moon Hoon at the Chicago Architecture Biennial.

Hoon, who is based in Seoul’s Gangnam district (yes, that Gangnam), creates fantastical, stunningly detailed images whose wild creativity bring to mind, among other things, 1960s Radical Futurism, Russian Constructivism, and Transformers.

They stem, says Hoon, from a lifetime of obsessive doodling, and an ability to be inspired by life’s most mundane offerings. Just the other day, he says, his creativity was triggered by a tray of delivery food that looked like a hat. Other sources of inspiration have included cars, planes, warships, Japanese animation, Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebooks, and watching movies backwards.

“I guess I can pick up things from near and far, from time antiquity to contemporary,” he says.

Rock It Suda from Doodle Constructivism Rock It Suda from Doodle Constructivism Moon Hoon

Hoon’s drawings are filled with biomorphic buildings and strange machinery. They merge fantasy with reality, and contrast tranquil urbanity with spectacular chaos, by turning towers into vegetables, chromosomes into offices, frogs into robots, and underground dens into capillaries. The illustration Rock it Suda (above) depicts what he calls “futuristic-gothic architecture” in the middle of Seoul, fixed with building-sized eyeballs and bombarded with explosions, “with a moon and comet theme.” In Shelfish Architecture (below), a colossal alien invader that looks like a cross between an apartment building, a squid, and a TIE Fighter, can be seen descending upon a city as crimson slime issues from its extremities.

Shelfish Architecture from Doodle Constructivism Shelfish Architecture from Doodle Constructivism Moon Hoon

“It’s a way of taking in an idea and expressing it,” says Hoon of his sketches. “Like how writers use words to understand the world and express their understanding.” The imperfection and shakiness of working by hand, he adds, make his illustrations more human than anything he could produce on a computer.

Sometimes Hoon’s pictures are informed by his architecture. In the illustration Urban Robot, the head and limbs of a towering architectural being are made up of several of his real-world projects. Other times it’s the other way around: The illustration Rock it Suda, mentioned earlier, gave rise to an eponymous group of colorful, Tetris-shaped homes—adorned with tails, antlers, and other unconventional add-ons—in the mountains of Korea. Hoon’s sketches for his unbuilt Wind Museum inspired a cube-shaped, exposed-concrete home, called Wind House, that sprouts a gold-colored tower shaped like a duck’s beak.

Again, strange inspirations abound: Wind House’s shape was prompted by a meal of stuffed duck he shared with his family. The initial spark for Two Moon, a cultural center in remote Korea consisting of a pair of cube shaped buildings carved out with a giant sphere-shaped void, was the movie Two Moon Junction.

Hoon describes the architecture scene in Korea as “like a teenager.” Not everything is fully grown, he says, “anything can become and exist.” He adds that his drawings are not intended to make a statement. But he is interested in depicting architecture as “ephemeral,” “alive,” and “moving beyond its limits”—not static, as it’s usually portrayed. His intention is to push our expectations about what architecture should look and behave like.

“I would probably say that the definition of architecture could be extended as far as we would allow it,” he said.

He describes his buildings as “playful,” encouraging people to interact with space in the joyful, excitable way they did when they were children. “I can sense that some hate my work,” he once told Australian architect Peter Farman, in reference to his whimsical aesthetic. “I’m not playing by their rules. In their view I’m too artistic or too individualistic. In Korea I am perceived as someone who is taking architecture too lightheartedly.”

His means of expanding this often serious realm is to keep searching; to see how far he can take his architecture and, of course, his art.

“The doodle is a tool for great synthesis, binding reality with fantasy…like magic…like a book of magic,” he says.

Go Back to Top. Skip To: Start of Article.

This article:  

Moon Hoon’s Fantastical, Mind-Bending Art and Architecture