Moon Ji Bang's installation is made of 60 cloud-shaped balloons.

In Seoul, the Shinseon Play pavilion is a walk in the clouds. Visitors meander along an elevated walkway among 60 cloud-shaped balloons, stopping for a game of baduk or a jump on a trampoline along the way. Cool mist machines provide both an ethereal cast to the area and very real relief from the summer heat. Eventually, the pavilion ascends to a grass-covered plaza with a view back to the picturesque Inwang Mountain in the distance. During a recent visit the lawn was covered with dragonflies, which seemed as if they had been placed there to accentuate the dreamy quality of the experience.

The pavilion, which is open through October 5, is the winning competition design for the Young Architects Program (YAP) in Seoul. The city is the newest locale for the program, which New York’s Museum of Modern Art and its sister institution MoMA PS1 founded in 1998 and have since brought to Santiago, Istanbul, and Rome. The Seoul design is the work of Moon Ji Bang—architects Cheonkang Park, Kyungmin Kwon, and Jangwon Choi—who met working with Minsuk Cho at Mass Studies and who each now runs his own firm.

Shinseon Play is located in the madang (traditional Korean courtyard) of the recently opened National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA), a complex that includes a new building by Hyunjun Minh as well as older structures. Moon Ji Bang began with the idea of unifying these buildings with a single cloud field. “We then realized that the old hanok [traditional house] behind this layer of clouds could be reimagined as a palace where Okhwangsangjae (the emperor of heaven) lives,” says Park. “And seen from the upper plaza, Inwangsan has a mysterious cloud lingering underneath, making it appear as a fantastic mountain where a Shinseon lives.” “Shinseon” is the name for an imaginary Taoist hermit; the origin of “Play” in the title of the whimsical design seems obvious.

Mixing historical references with contemporary design is appropriate here. The pavilion is located across from Gyeongbokgung, Seoul’s old royal palace. The location is bound to draw tourists off the street. Moon Ji Bang offers them a familiar mythological reference built into a 21st-century design. The cloud forms look more like anime than ancient paintings, and their design is new to balloon structures, according to the architects. Air pipes are installed underground, and poles rise from them through the balloons’ columns to support the large upper spheres. Each balloon can move independently in the wind; its treated nylon fabric is tied to its central support in order to prevent the clouds from becoming airborne during a typhoon.

Shinseon Play, which is organized by MMCA in partnership with MoMA and Hyundai Card, is YAP’s inaugural project in Asia. Pedro Gadanho, a curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at MoMA, explains the choice of the new location: “Korea is a place where there are a lot of young architects and new construction. There are quite exciting moments there, similar to what has been in Tokyo for a longer period. But Korea in a way is a more fringe situation.” Of course, what is fringe today may become celebrated tomorrow; note the success of YAP PS1 alumni SHoP, nARCHITECTS, and WORK Architecture Company. It remains to be seen if the architects of Moon Ji Bang will meet the same success. The Young Architects Program offers them a venue to try.