RE.PLACE.ING : Documentary of Changing Metropolis Seoul

Documentary of Changing Metropolis Seoul

The exhibition in the Korean pavilion will show a record of changes in the historic city of Seoul that occurred from the population influx as a result of the compressed economic growth after the Korean War. Through the observation of the replacement of residential environments and public spaces, the states of expansion, the deletion and insertion of urban tissues, and its continuously sustained vitality, it will clearly reveal the balances or dissonances between the new aspects of urban life. We will see the intention and the vision of the changes, as well as the possible dreams that come about.

The architects participating in the exhibition will present various understandings of the continuous replacing situation of Seoul. This will be done by showing works that are based on the maintained shapes of old residences, the mutation of landscapes from recent apartments, the vision of the new type of residence (interacted with by visitors), and the diverse ideas about possibilities & blueprints of public spaces in the metropolis of Seoul. This exhibition can be a chance for the visitors to imagine the shape of Seoul in the future through his or her own participation.

Kwon, Moon Sung
Commissioner, Korean Pavilion 2010

Hanok, People meet in Korean Pavilion

It is ‘Hanok’ that guests encounter first in the Korean pavilion. This Hanok is made from the parts of several Hanoks in Seoul that were facing a crisis of being removed, so we moved them to the Korean Pavilion in Venice. A small jeong-ja is added on the right side of the entrance. These two buildings reveal the rational order and beautiful shape of Korean traditional wood structures. The inner spaces and the courtyard of a Hanok, ‘Bang’, ‘Maru’ and ‘Madang’, open to each other and communicating with the nature of Venice like a forest and ocean outside of the pavilion, show the unique organization of space of Hanok. Just 100 years ago every house in the Korean Peninsula was Hanok. It is the prototype of Korean traditional architecture. Further, we can find the tissues of space from Hanok in the residences after the inflow of modern architecture and even in inner spaces of recent residences in skyscrapers. The exhibition of the Korean Pavilion starts with Hanok that provides places where the guests can take a rest and experience the real scale of Korean traditional urban residence.

Collaboration of
Cho, Jung-goo (Architect) & Jung, Tae Do (principal Carpenter) Korean Pavilion Space


Kwon, Moon Sung

He has led the architects to practice their social and public role by setting up ‘Korea Architects Institute’ with his colleagues in 2003. He has focused on the basic substance of architecture and considers traditional architecture, vernacular, communion with nature, people-oriented architecture as important subjects of architectural practice. He won lots of prizes through his main works of residence(built in Ilsan, Heyri, Gumam, Pan-kyo), cultural facility(Anseong Brass Museum, Museum of Korea Straw and Plants Handicraft), renovation(Hyunamsa, Dukwon Gallery, Imjingak) and public facility(located in Seo-chon, Daegu Dongsung-ro, Hangang Renaissance Projects — Approaching Facility & Cafe in Ttukseom Resort, Yanghwa Obsevatory, Gwangjingyo Observatory). Some of these projects had been introduced during "Megacity Network Contemporary Korean Architecture", the exhibition tour in Europe, 2007— 2009. It is estimated that Kwon's architecture is harmonizing with its context instead of emphasizing fancy form and arouse pride and sympathy in many people for long. All the architects, invited by this commissioner of the 12th Venice Biennale, get their own achievements of architecture, besides practice their pubic role as an architect in the society. In company with them, Kwon shows his attention and attitude toward architecture through this exhibition by inspecting and predicting the positive evaluation of residential and public circumstances of the historic city, Seoul.


The Golmok-gil (alleys) of Seoul are winding and irregular, without any consistency in width. They normally have a dead end and the intersections of paths are three-way instead of the usual four-way stop in modern city planning. Such formal characteristics of Golmok-gil is because of their gradual stages of development. Unlike instant and simultaneous construction of modern city streets, the Golmok-gil fragmented larger street in simple blocks and each single piece grew in additional joints one by one, gradually completing the whole, along with inhabitants’ changing way of life over a long period of time. This tells the urban structure of Seoul is a collective accumulation which reflects the life patterns of the people. Golmok-gil can be defined as ‘Living Forms’ that ceaselessly carried on throughout the time. As the structure of the Golmok-gil (alleys) indicates, it was inhabitants that constantly renewed and transformed Seoul until the modern period. However, here and there, unprecedented mass developments occurred since the early 20th century. Small-scale mass development of multi-family urban housing districts in the early 20th century grew into large-scale apartment complexes in the city outskirts in the mid to late 20th century. By the end of the cen tury, the size of development expanded into city scale as new towns and reached its peak.

The circumstances which allowed mass development to proliferate on the city outskirts changed at the turn of the century and became more complicated. It began with the authorization of Central Urban Redevelopment Project in 1973. Most of the selected districts were core parts of the city historically. Naesu-dong and Sajik-dong where Hanok houses were densely located were among them. The roadside of Naesu-dong which faces the main entrance of the altar, has long history as Sajik-dong, and its southern slope has been mass developed as a high-density urban Hanok district since the 1930s and until the early 1960s. Under the enforcement of Central Urban Redevelopment Projects, All Hanok houses in Naesu-dong were torn down in 2000 and replaced by high-rise multipurpose building complexes. In the spring of 2004, demolition began in Sajik-dong as well, and new communities moved in as residents of newly completed apartment complexes in 2007.

Living city:

Living city:
Living forms

Satellite pictures of
From the top, in 2007,
in 2001 and in 1998

The accumulation of time has made architecture and people’s lives into a concrete form. Winding alleys and houses, benches and flower pots placed in front of houses, signboard-filled building facades, repeated extensions of houses where their original architectural form is no longer discernible are what we often see in our daily lives. Here we see various agents build their urban environment and leave vestiges of their daily life to be imprinted and remembered.

We have been doing Wednesday Surveys every week over the past ten years on 500 different occasions, which led us to look at and reflect on Seoul’s urban architecture and life as it is. We looked into reasons why so many cities in Asia such as Seoul have a complex, but lively cityscape, rather than having harmonious landscape. What we have learnt is that such complicated urban landscapes are the product of various agents which are working in diverse urban environments. We named these agents ‘Gigan’ and defined as a unit of management that performs specific function and occupies space in the built environment. Therefore, 'City of Gigan' is a city which various agents actively construct their environment and cityscape in organic relations with their environment. Living Forms are the product of such relationships that these agents have formed with the built environment including urban architecture.

In this exhibition, an attempt has been made to define a relationship between the lives of people and the urban architecture that consists of Seoul. As modern architecture has compulsively tried to maintain itself through new technologies, urban architecture closer to our daily lives has become more complex and detailed. It has formed a delicate and discernible relationship with people involved and has maintained their lives. We would like to convey that ‘Living Forms in the Living City’, the various layers of people’s lives accumulated through past and present, is what forms the identity, asset, and future of our city Seoul.

in the exhibition
this area is depicted
in detail with its Hanoks
and alleys.

An example of
Hanok district

An alley of
living forms

Seoul has been noted for its beautiful scenery comprised of surrounding mountains along with the historic villages, which have been built and thrived for hundreds of years. However, since its first construction of apartments in the 1930’s, and after its rapid industrial expansion in the 1970’s and 1980s, many historical and traditional parts of Seoul, including Hanok houses and small alleys, were changed and erased by an exploding number of apartments built in Seoul. In only 30 years, apartments have occupied everywhere in Seoul, including mountain and river areas, and they have be- come Korea’s representative residential housing type and a major element of cityscape. As a result, the supply of apartments in Seoul amounts to 1,381,252 units, which is about 1/2 of the circumference of the earth and about 3 times of radius of the earth. The current landscape of Seoul reminds us of Emmental cheese riddled with holes. Literally, we can call Seoul as an apartment city. However, this situation is not all that negative, because apartments in Seoul have evolved into a universal lifestyle which can accommodate an active urban life.

We have documented various aspects of apartments, both negative and positive. For this exhibition, we put out some of the documents. The exhibits consist of five segments: "The Beginning and Change of Apartments", "The Uniformity and Diversity of Apartments", "The Commercial Viability of Apartments" , "Apartments and Culture", and "Apartment Landscape". Additionally, the contents of the exhibition include spatial, temporal, quantitative changes and statistics of apartments; various aspects within uniformity; creation of brand names and advertisements introduced to sell the image of apartments, rather than the quality contents of apartments; the culture of apartments penetrated into movies, poems, novels, songs, and internet social networks; and Seoul’s cityscape dominated by apartments built in hillside areas and along the rivers, erasing the trace of old traditional neighborhoods..

Apartment blocks in Seoul:
Total area of Seoul is
while total area of
apartment blocks
in Seoul: 49.25km2

Apartment blocks
along the Han river:
From above

Landscape of Apartments:
From above
Bulam Mountain,
Inwang Mountain,
Namsan (Mountain)

In the contemporary city which is being much more fortified, it seems to be another idealistic approach to make people to meet and communicate with each other by architecture. Thereafter, the point might be not on the instrumental set-up by architecture but on the situational conditioning in architecture, when considering this biennale’s key phase; “People meet in Architecture.” It is about public scape where people meet and communicate that we are proposing in this exhibition. The reason why we use the term “public scape” instead of “public space” is that the term of scape is generally being used in such a combination with other words, as cityscape, streetscape, landscape, and so on, implying situational conditions of connection and contact with a specific spatial entity.

We believe that the space of interface, which prompts and contacts heterotopian individual activities and experiences, and the space of network, which connects and links them into urban public experience, are highly required, in the situation of Korea, where space of cityscape are polarized and disconnected in the space of extreme homogeneity, represented by Apartment housing, and that of heterogeneity, represented by Internet Technology, with ultimate speed of e-scaping caused by unprecedented fast urbanization.

In a process and approach to replace the urbanized ‘barricaded city’, the proposal that we are suggesting is the new concept of liminal space where individual domain collide and link beyond spatial boundary. Like ‘SPACE BAR’ on keyboard, urban public space forms creative spacing between individual activities which bring in all relation beyond the logic of “either/or”. The SPACE BAR is the space of documentary, collecting memoirs, interaction of individuals, and at the same time, extension of individual activities formed in urban territories. In conclusion, space of public-ness should be an ‘inter-place’ where user’s experience are extended and integrated across various scapes.

Barricaded city,

Public scape:
Publicness lies
in-between individual

Space of border,
Space of connectivity:
3 prototypes

“A city is the integral place built by differential lives.” – Tesoc Ha

The city has been generated and transformed by people throughout time. Differential Life Integral City will realize this transformation in real time through people’s participation. If a small number of people participate in the exhibition, the city will be homogeneous as our current cities like Seoul. And as more people participate, the city will become differentiated to suit each individual’s lifestyle. When the total number of participants reaches the maximum density, the city will become fully differentiated and customized to every individual in the city. We call this kind of city the integral city. The exhibition will show this generating process of the city in real time. Every individual’s participation will contribute to the transformation of the city. During the exhibition period, visitors will be able to see the city change from a homogenous city to the integral city.

Participation is made possible through the use of smart phones within the exhibition room as well as anywhere in the world. People can input their own lifestyle information into the application and this will create their own customized housing unit as well as contribute to the formation of the city. The exhibition realizes a continuously differentiated city through the participation of people in a “bottom-up” process. The massive participation of people will directly affect the urban form and differentiation as a result of the exhibition.

Lifestyle input 1:
Household profit

Lifestyle input 2:
Lifestyle preference

Housing units

A generated city by

Participation is made
possible through the use of
smart phones anywhere
in the world. The exhibition
will show this generating
process of the city
in real time.
Documentary of
Changing Metropolis Seoul

Kwon, Moon Sung
Cho, Jung Goo
Lee, Sang Koo
Shin, Seung Soo
Lee, Chung Kee
Ha, Tesoc

Published by
Arts Council Korea

Publication art director:
Kwon, Ki Hong

Book design:

English and Korean
First edition August 2010
ISBN 978-89-93082-84-5
Documentary of
Changing Metropolis Seoul

Korean Pavilion
12th International
Architecture Exhibition
Venice Biennale
People Meet in Architecture

Aug 29 — Nov 21, 2010
Giardini di Castello, Venezia, Italy

Aug 27, 2010 4:30PM

Organized by:
Korean culture and arts foundation
Fondazione la Biennale di Venezia

Kwon, Moon Sung

Lee, Sang Koo
Cho, Jung Goo
Lee, Chung Kee
Shin, Seung Soo
Hah, Tesoc

Park, Cheolsoo & Park, Inseok

Administrative coordinators:
Bae, MoonKyu & Kim, Eun Jeong

Publication art director:
Kwon, Kee Hong (the-D)

Web design:
Kim, Kyong

12TH International Architecture Exhibition
La Biennale di Venezia
Korean Pavilion

Il Padiglione Coreano Biennale di Venezia
Giardini di Castello 30122 Venezia, Italy

Tel: +39-41-277-0990
Fax: +39-41-71-0506