Nearly one year ago, we featured architectural designer Jisoo Han’s navigational costume The Situationist Device, a mind-boggling wearable contraption that allows you to see behind you while walking facing forward. The Situationist awed revealed Han’s strange and extraordinary understanding of the body, space, and his meticulous development of design, something he applies to .
Today, we delve in deeper into his work with a few words from the young designer on his fascinating thesis Spaces of Moving Bodies that envisions a large-scale structure based on the historic 1974 boxing event matching up heavyweight champions George Foreman and Muhammad Ali, “The Rumble in the Jungle.”
The Creators Project: Your thesis, Spaces of Moving Bodies, culminates into an architectural design proposal, a vortex structure for the The British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC). What is the relation between this proposed structure and the BBBoc?
Jisoo Han: The British Boxing Board of Control, formerly National Sporting Club, oversees all procedures for British professional boxing. The primary function is the debating chamber where it houses disciplinary hearings, policy debates on rule changes, and disputes between different boxing organizations. The vortex structure proposes how one moves through the building, as well as creating spaces as it spirals up. Conceptually and programmatically, it’s all about the drama of two things interacting. How two surfaces interact forming spaces in between; how it meets, almost touching in some places or repels and rebounds to other direction. The surface, at ground level, simply defines a passage. From the first floor onwards, the structure twists and spirals forming a ramp up through the building, as well as merging into a round space for the debating chamber.
The structure becomes a spectacle and creates a sense of theatre – a situation similar to a law court. As one enters the building at the ground level, there is a cut, a glass floor, where one can see down to the boxing gym. Then, as one takes on a journey up through the ramp, the public gallery, one engages with the programmatic functions of the BBBoC. The scheme promotes boxing to members of the public by creating opportunities to engage with the boxing community.
You chose to work with an existing building. How did you go about choosing your site?
In regard to the site, I was inspired to work with an existing house in Covent Garden for its historical significance. In 1891, the house hosted the National Sporting Club to promote professional integrity in sport. They were responsible for transforming and promoting boxing as a proper sport, as well as introducing the Queensbury rules to boxing, which still stand today.
Situated within 18th century classical architecture, the proposal deliberately contrasts with the formality of the existing. It is a radical design that makes a cylindrical cut through the building. Through the insertion of new vortex structure, it provides a spectacle which becomes the main space, and the spaces around it become background spaces for all the secondary functions for the BBBoC, such as all the office spaces—conference rooms, meeting rooms, members’ tea room, and boardroom.
And the design of this structure is actually based on the 1974 George Foreman and Muhammad Ali match. What made you choose boxing for your subject of analysis and can you break down this process?
From watching countless boxing matches—I’ve watched the “Rumble In The Jungle” so many times, I could probably recreate the fight! Those were fun times!
On a more serious note, I started by investigating boxing as a way to explore the reciprocal relationship of two human bodies interacting. The second part of my thesis, Movement-space: Inter-activity, is a series of analytical studies on Spaces of Moving Bodies. It engages with the idea of adaptive bodily behavior in a given context, how it mutates in response to the external forces that allow reaction and action to occur spontaneously. The project seeks to understand the qualitative dimensions that the bodies unfold through its production of spaces and in its intersection with other spaces.
The underlining theme was that the process questioned how concepts of Spaces of Moving Bodies could be proposed as an architectural strategy. Throughout the development, physical contact was conceptualized spatially by abstracting bodily movement in varied phases of interaction—approach, initial contact, main contact, and release. The two bodies interacting and the referee’s movement circling the players were conceived as points of reference where happenings occur within the square grid of the boxing ring.
The layout of the boxing ring has similarities to the square geometry of the existing building. It was at this point it became clear to me that movement from this match could be mapped onto the building. Phases of physical contact were then plotted onto the levels within the building and were translated into programmatic functions. So, ground floor: approach phase—lobby, first floor: initial contact phase—public gallery, second floor: main contact phase—debating chamber, and third floor: release phase—club for retired boxers and the public.
For instance, the referee’s circular movement was conceived as the public eye, which then became the circular cut throughout the building and generated the public gallery ramp system. Similarly, the debating chamber, which was derived from the main contact phase of two bodies interacting, happens within the referee’s radar, therefore the public gallery wrapped around the debating chamber.
The resulting form, vortex structure, was developed based on the movements of George Foreman and Muhammad Ali. It is essentially a ramp system that defines how one encounters BBBoC as one takes on a journey through the building.
If you shifted the focus to other common social practices like dancing, what would you propose as a resulting design? Why?
This is an interesting question. Throughout the development, I was very much engaged with the theme of social practice. The idea of affordance, where properties in the environment, whether object or subject, provide opportunities for action. How processes of perception and action support movement coordination and control. The body perceives and expresses certain actions through bodily movement whether it’s something as subtle as hints of facial expression or words or even physical contact. Boxing was really chosen as a platform to explore how one engages with another, as a measure of interaction relation. Initially I wanted to engage with speed dating. As an investigation, speed dating and boxing, together, could have been really interesting. Both have high levels of intimacy but construct a totally different situation or perception. Interaction is more formal, happens at a structured distance but the concept of how one affords one another is more or less the same. Conceptually this is an interesting topic, rather obscure, but I do like the idea of mixing different social interventions and seeing what you get as an end result.
Below, is a drawing of speed dating that I did as an early conceptual work.
Considering the Situationist Drawing Device and your recent work, you heavily investigated the affect of space on the human body and vice versa the affect of the human body on space. This allows you to delve into other facets of design beyond architecture. What do you see yourself doing in the coming years?
I’ve always enjoyed developing concepts. I think it’s important that the design process continues to be informed by multiple domains. There are always far more interesting results this way. Although my work tends to fall into abstract category, I think Spaces of Moving Bodies is an important topic for architects. After all, buildings serve people. Design process should be informed by the human scale and buildings should be designed to make a contribution to our daily life.