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Morphosis now designing LA’s Korean American National Museum

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The museum will incorporate elements of traditional Korean houses and lots of greenery

The rendering shows the facade of the museum broken up by the entry, which takes a chunk out of its otherwise rectangular perimeter.
A rendering of the museum entrance at Sixth and Vermont.
Courtesy of Morphosis

A new design for the planned Korean American National Museum was revealed Wednesday at an event announcing $4 million in state funding will be awarded to the project.

The museum’s new look was created by Los Angeles-based architecture firm Morphosis. Its flashy design is based on “the idea of a lifted, displaced landscape—a piece of Korea grafted onto Los Angeles.”

The Korean American National Museum is slated to rise on the southwest corner of Sixth Street and Vermont Avenue in Koreatown, replacing a city parking lot in the heart of Koreatown. It’s an excellent spot for the institution, whose mission is to “preserve and interpret the history, experiences, culture and achievements of Americans of Korean ancestry.”

Morphosis was founded by Pritzker Prize winner Thom Mayne. In West Hollywood, the firm has also been tapped to design a futuristic, 15-story structure that would replace the Viper Room and the businesses that share the block with it.

From the street, passersby will notice the Korean American National Museum’s “terrace crown,” which will top the structure and be landscaped with maple, pine, and bamboo—plants that are fixtures of the outdoors in Korea. The building’s exterior wall is embossed with a pattern that has been used on royal palaces of Korea as a form of protection.

Inside, the museum incorporates concepts of a hanok, a traditional Korean house, including high, sculptural ceilings and a central courtyard ringed with rooms—in this case, galleries and gathering space.

A rendering of the museum, seen from the side, looking kind of like an engineered hill with trees surrounding it and on top of it.
The museum as seen from Sixth Street.

In a statement, museum officials say the new facility will bring “much-needed greenery, public space, and cultural programming” to the park-poor neighborhood. The neighborhood’s gain is also a major improvement for the cultural institution: The Korean American National Museum was founded in 1991, but has never had its own permanent home.

The architecture is not the only recent change for the museum. Last month, museum officials definitively ditched a plan to add some housing to the project, citing increased construction costs.

The museum is scheduled to break ground in 2020, with projected completion in 2022.

A rendering of a large, mostly covered hall-style courtyard, which has an opening like a big skylight.
The museum’s central courtyard, surrounded by galleries and meeting rooms.
A rendering of a central staircase flanked by two large galleries and a skylight-like window to the outside.
The dramatic main staircase in the museum.