Naked Life in Disguise
Korean DMZ Underground Bathhouse
DMZ, North/South Korea
Top 50 Finalist | Arch Out Loud Boarders Competition, 2017
Team: Te-Hsin Lu, Po-Cheng Wu
This project delineates a bottom-up reflection for pilgrimage towards the concept of “naked life” in the futuristic bathhouse city located at the borders of two Korea. We propose that in the near future, this unorthodox bathhouse city becomes a new front in propaganda warfare. Amidst unsoothing tensions, we seek to explore possibilities for visitors of this city to unshackle the ever-present political pressure that may undermine the pursuit of freedom and equality. Within this premise, the design of boiler rooms and flues are intentionally enlarged to serve as camouflage, protecting its innocent visitors and, ultimately, the ideology of “naked life”.
Escape (Naked Life)
Shuttle bus from Seoul took me to the new bath house in DMZ. It’s a new controversial sight as everybody knew. The huge bathhouse city is 500-meter-wide and sphere-shaped. I guess the shape of it implies us this is a neutral zone and it welcomes everyone. Most of the building is underground, I shall enter the dome and venture downwards.
Upon entering the public bathhouse, it is obvious that people don’t feel comfortable being here. It seems like everyone is at war with one another, competing and judging through looks and stares. Nationality identity haunts this city, I don’t want to be recognized and be locked into anyone’s expectations.
I can’t breath anymore, I need some space. Wandering around the city like a ghost. I find a dark alley with some red lights flickering in the end. I am curious about what’s lurking behind the doors. Therefore I walk inside.
I realize I am in a huge boiler room, which supplies hot water for the big bathhouse. An old folk instructed me to buy an unknown ticket and walk up a winding staircase. The staircase seemed to be installed within an enormous flue, I can hear the boiler howling beneath me and steam leaking from its crevices.
A few doors were located around the stairs. I entered one randomly. To my surprise, it’s a large, artificial, yet quiet cave with hot spring inside, looks like someone excavated this “bathhouse”.
I can barely see anything, but I finally feel comfortable bathing here. No more sights, no more tags. I finally become naked.