SEOUL | THE CITY OUT OF THE BANG

RESEARCH PROJECT ABOUT THE COLLECTIVE AND PUBLIC REALM IN THE CITY OF SEOUL

In collaboration with Akshara Verma

Project shown at The Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism / 2017

Seoul-Rotterdam / 2014-2017

Beyond a life occupied in hyper-commercialized and interiorized bangs, the emerging mobile demographic is also in constant movement through a complex network of shared spaces; where multiple sub-spatial and infrastructural components are intertwined within a dense urban environment.

We project these shared spaces as an open system; a diluted boundary between the domestic space, urban space, public and virtual infrastructure. Thus creating a spatial environment that triggers spontaneous encounters even between varied, socio-cultural demographics across traditional hierarchies.

Blurring the private-public dynamic that has been long established by the ethnically homogeneous Korean community that appropriates the bang on a day-to-day basis, we observe that the spatial spectrum outside the bang potentially provides for unexpected encounters even without an assigned program or function. Further, the nature of these encounters is dependent on the organization of spatial elements which prompt and foster spontaneous interaction.

We thus infer, that the hyper-prescribed ’bang’ too, is not a manifestation of the generic container itself, but essentially is an arrangement of elements that allows for the interaction between specific subjects in a determinate situation or action.

Thus arises the understanding behind the unit, describing the need for an Architecture without content.

The strong commercial, programmatic and cultural limits raised by the bang are primarily blurred. Followed by collating a systematic understanding of the city outside the bang.  The response to the researched condition was thus a unit that was defined with a new order of architectural elements within the landscape of the city. The unit leads up to a transformation of architecture and infrastructure, as they are experienced, in Seoul.

The unit is a micro-spatial unit, experienced as an extension of one’s living room, an institutional place and the public space almost simultaneously. Manifested as a grid of architectural post and beam elements which is reminiscent of the traditional Hanok, the elements are experienced in relationship with a slice of the virgin mountainous Korean landscape. In a contrast of scales and systemic limitations, the unit begins to form a missing link amidst transitional and intermittent networks that exist in Seoul due to the nature of the Bang.

The bang condition, we recognize, is often beyond the control of the planner or architect. The unit, therefore supersedes the idea of controlling the city with architecture, by choosing to understand emerging social dynamics and plug-in, spatially in between realms of the semi-public domestic and public non-commercial spheres.

The unit references and encapsulates the concept of Baesanimsu, literally meaning that the ideal house is built with a mountain at the back and a river in the front. The transpatial networks across the city that are perceived intermittently, due to the random nature of the Bangs conception and inhabitation, now refer back to the mountain and the river as an element of interaction. The intimate relationship between the architectural elements and the landscape is left to a naive exploration by way of a series of doors. Each door would chart multiple possibilities of navigating through the unit – between the empirical and the cognitive, the man-made and the natural, between physical architecture and virtual infrastructure – allowing for diversified interaction triggered without any prescribed function.  (2017)

An interpretation of the impending state of the collective space in Seoul. (2014)

What becomes of the future collective space in Seoul? Does it remain a memory reservoir? Become a mere ornament? Or will it render itself into an augmented experience?

Tracing the trajectories of demographic change in Seoul; and their consequent daily trajectories of the city’s collective spaces and technological infrastructure, we investigate the condition and evolution of the Korean routine.

The evolution of Korean domesticity originated with the courtyard home. The archetypical Hanok and its multi-generation household hierarchy. In due time, there was a shift in domestic conditions from the Hanok to a western ideology of apartment blocks; risking privacy, traditional rituals and importantly their multi-generation interactive social organization.

These events coupled with the linguistic and ethnic homogeneity which exists in the Korean social fabric, eventually gave birth to what we address as the birth of the ‘city of bangs’. Bang, or simply ‘room’, dominated the Korean urban space, where multiple specific activities are interiorized and commercialized, allowing for continuous inhabitation, most often by social groups of the same hierarchy, confronting and reassuring their relatedness with each other.

This creates a new understanding of public and collective spaces while revealing how little different demographies spanning generations interact among each other.

A parallel investigation revealed that there has been a $1.5B investment on the creation of a 5G network that will be 1000 times faster than existing speeds as a public service in Korea.

Since the conception of the Namsan tower in 1969, there exists a synergy between the mountain, nature, collective space and technological innovation.

Simultaneously, today the urban Korean is caught in a web of routine inhabitation of infrastructure in both the underground and virtual realms.

Putting the two parts of the research together, we ask in what realm of this new collective space will different generations interact in a time where mobile media constantly challanges the fundamental perception of private and public human disconnection.

This research studies the possibilities of everyday encounters across Korean hierarchies out of our immediate understandings of dwelling, or the bang, as extensions of dwelling itself. Doorsteps, elevators, lobbies, thresholds, bus stops, trains stations, bicycles, parks, bridges and data centres constitute some of the spaces outside the bang that made interesting points of study.

A catalog of these spaces and their new arrangements making encounters possible open up the new concept of “elements of interaction”. Breaking and blurring  the dynamics of private-public established by the bang community, a limitless system begins to operate between the three realms of domestic, public and infrastructure.

Continuing this ideal of blurring the strong economic, programmatic and cultural limits raised by the bang and a systematic understanding from the city-out-of-the-bang, these elements of interaction call for a new organization of space; a manifestation of single cell, that ca potentially lead to a transformation and fresh perspective of collective space in Seoul.

Daily trajectories of the Korean routine: A careful assessment of the highly individualistic routine of distinct Korean demographies reveals the expanse of time that the average Korean spends ‘living’ outside his dwelling unit. Encounters between demographic hierarchies, currently non-existent, seem possible in three realms; the domestic sphere, modes of transport and within physical and virtual infrastructure.

The scheme of reality: Extrapolating these trajectories, we delve into details of a physical and virtual spectrum. In this scheme, we interpret the daily movements and the possible interaction of people and data within their spatial components.