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Seoul Policy Storytelling

  • Seoul: Transforming into a World-Class Capital of the Humanities

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    Pioneering New Architectural Culture

    • Seoul Architecture Festival 2016: Recognizing the culture-shaping capacity of architecture

      * 8th SAF held in Seoul from October 6 to 31, 2016

      * City-wide event comprising programs and events held at Seoul City Hall, the DDP, and other major venues
    • Seoul as a “city of the humanities,” remembering the past and discussing the future

      * Wide range of public programs provided, including the Humane City Exploration and Award-Winning Architecture Tour

      * Diverse architecture-themed exhibitions
    • First-ever Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism to take place in September 2017

    Recognizing the Culture-Shaping Capacity of Architecture

    Gyeongbokgung PalaceDongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)
    Gyeongbokgung PalaceDongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP)

    A number of iconic landmarks, including Gyeongbokgung Palace, N-Seoul Tower, and the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP), define Seoul’s landscape. In recognition of the capacity of architecture to shape and create culture and in the hope of fostering such culturally creative architectural activities, the Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) has been organizing the Seoul Architecture Festival (SAF) on an annual basis. The 8th SAF, held this year from October 6 to 31 under the theme “Humane Cities,” featured a number of interesting programs and events throughout the city, especially in such major locations as the DDP, Eulji-ro Underground Pedestrian Way, and Seoul City Hall.

    The festival included six programs that welcomed public participation and interaction and 20 exhibitions. The six participatory programs included the Curators’ Talks, consisting of conversations with the head curators who organized the exhibitions; Architectural Culture Tour (“Humane City Exploration”); Seoul Award-Winning Architecture Tour (Open House Seoul); Architecture Academy; and screenings of architecture-themed movies from around the world, all of which were open to citizens who had submitted applications prior to the events.

    This year, the Seoul International Architecture Film Festival partnered with Open House Seoul to provide opportunities for the public to view architecture-themed movies free of charge in the preview and Public Connection (Open House Seoul 2016 Special Edition) sessions. Citizens were also invited to take a tour of award-winning architectural works throughout Seoul.

    Remembering the Past and Discussing the Future

    A “humane city,” as imagined by the festival organizers, is a city that remembers its past and discusses its future. It is an ideal toward which Seoul continues to aspire. This year’s festival featured a number of exhibitions under this overarching theme, including those of award-winning architectural works. In particular, the Hangang River Architecture Exhibition program was organized to collect creative ideas from citizens and architects regarding waterfront development along the Hangang River. An active public-private partnership has emerged to complete this participation-oriented public architecture project.

    SAF 2016 posterSAF 2016 spokesperson (Actress Kim Hye-na)
    SAF 2016 posterSAF 2016 spokesperson (Actress Kim Hye-na)

    The Seoul Architecture Awards, held for the 34th time this year, is the most prestigious awards ceremony for architects in Korea. Here, Seoul honors architects who have contributed to the architectural culture of the city by creating works that promote the public interest and showcase artistic and technical excellence. The accompanying exhibitions this year included Architectural Imagination for the Hangang River, which invited citizens to imagine and talk about anticipated changes to Seoul’s riverfront spaces; Small Homes for Shared Values: My Personal Accounts of Architecture in Seoul; and the Proactive Community Service Centers Exhibition.

    33rd Seoul Architecture Awards (2015)Exhibits of award-winning works
    33rd Seoul Architecture Awards (2015)rExhibits of award-winning works

    Throughout this year, architecture has been an important source of learning for students of all age groups. This year’s SAF thus featured exhibitions of works of university students who had participated in last year’s SAF, works of graduates of the Architecture Academies for children and secondary school students, award-winning works of students who submitted ideas to the Good Neighborhood Making Project, and works of university students who had attended the Seoul Architecture Forum’s Summer Architecture School.

    A number of additional exhibitions were held to promote the innovative nature and superiority of architecture in Seoul. These included the Architect of the Year Exhibition (for Kim In-cheol, who won the honor in 2015); exhibition of winning works from the 34th Seoul Architecture Awards; Meta City 3.0; and exhibitions promoting UIA 2017 and the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism 2017.

    UIA 2017 will be a major international event related to architecture, for which the SMG and the Union of Korean Architectural Associations won the bid to host at the Union Internationale des Architects (UIA) in 2011. The UIA exhibition is held in a different city every three years. Seoul is the third city in Asia to host the event since 1948, after Beijing and Tokyo. Under the overarching theme of “Soul of City,” Seoul UIA 2017 will feature programs and exhibitions that strike a perfect balance between tradition and modernity, much like the host city has.

    Pioneering New Architectural Culture with Citizens

    Curators’ TalksArchitecture Academy
    Curators’ TalksArchitecture Academy

    This year, the SAF again served as a major occasion for public participation, bringing together lay citizens and architects through various programs, including walking tours, lectures, and visits to architects’ offices. The great diversity of the participatory and interactive programs attests to the sincerity of the “Humane City,” which was the overarching theme of this year’s festival. Every weekend during the festival period, famous architects and cultural figures were invited to take citizens on tours of various architectural works in the city. The Architecture Academy was held as well, offering lectures by architects on the ideals and values of architecture.

    Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism to Take Place in September 2017

    Inspired by the success of SAF 2016, the first-ever Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism will take place throughout the city over a period of two months, starting in September 2017. University of Seoul’s Professor Bae Hyeong-min, who served as the chief curator of the Gwangju Design Biennale, and Princeton University’s Professor Alejandro Zaera-Polo, who designed London Stadium and Yokohama International Passenger Terminal, have been named as co-directors of the event.

    Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism 2017Inaugural Executive Directors
    Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism 2017Inaugural Executive Directors

    From September 1 to November 5, 2017, events of the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism will be held at such venues as Donuimun Museum Village and the DDP under the theme “Imminent Commons.” The biennale will propose a new theory of urban development, centered on the four major common resources (air, water, earth, and fire) and six main ways of sharing such resources (identifying, connecting, moving, dividing, making, and recycling), and present new and alternative paradigms of urban architecture.

    Event participants will engage in active debates on various issues related to urban architecture, which is an amalgam of political, economic, social, and cultural influences, and pioneer new public discourses on the future of cities. Officials, experts, and citizens of Seoul will participate in discussions and efforts to devise new architectural alternatives for the issues plaguing the city.

    For the most part, the biennale will feature diverse exhibitions by topic and city, along with participatory programs at the Seoul Lab. The exhibitions will address 10 major topics related to the commons as well as major public initiatives underway in cities worldwide.

    Seoul Biennale Exhibition:A Study on Inhabitability (Shin Gyeong-seob) A guidebook on the Seoul Lab (pre-biennale event)
    Seoul Biennale Exhibition:
    A Study on Inhabitability (Shin Gyeong-seob)
    A guidebook on the Seoul Lab (pre-biennale event)

    The biennale will address a wide range of important urban issues facing Seoul today, including urban spacing and organization, development and renewal, architecture and technology, urban environment, and urban management and solidarity.