Furniture for an Emperor in transition was created for the Unearthing Future group architecture exhibition held by the MMCA (National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art) in Seoul, inside the historic Deoksugung Palace. Created by CL3 Architects Limited, the project began with a theme of the pushcart and its dominance in Asian cities, as well as the story of emperor Gojong, the last King of Joseon and the first emperor of Korea who resided in Deoksugung Palace. Gojong ruled in transition – with the modernization and industrialization of the country and simultaneous diplomatic issues and worries of foreign invasion.
The pieces include formal seating with a canopy, inspired by the imperial throne, a chaise lounge with a Le Corbusier-like profile, a garden storage unit, a bed, and a see-saw piece for recreation. The series of furniture involves four aspects: the ceremonial, the social, the functional, and the playful.
Inspired by imperial carriages (Palanquin) and other traditional Korean furniture, the collection was laid out in ceremonial order in front of Hamnyeongjeon, the hall used for the Emperor’s official duties until 1902, like attendants ready to serve. Adding modern functions, such as desks and storage, implies contemporary life overlapping tradition. The playfulness of some pieces contrasts the somberness of the palace itself.
The courtyards, used as transitional spaces from one building to another, overlap between the ceremonial and the quotidian, between royalty and servants. And so ‘transition’ became the overarching theme of Furniture for an Emperor in transition, a series of mobile furniture pieces designed with wheels and meant to explore mobility, displacement, migration, and the overlap of the service and the served.