What will cities look like in a hundred years? Is it even possible to plan solutions for such a distant prospect? How to properly balance development and the necessary return to nature? Visions of a master plan for the capital of South Korea, one of the largest and richest metropolises in the world, will be painted this year by the creators and participants of the 4th. Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism - "Land Architecture, Land Urbanism." SBAU 2023 is curated by Eui Young Chun, Jinyoung Lim, Sang Hoon Youm, Sara Kim and Leif Høgfeldt Hansen.
The organizers of the event, scheduled for autumn (biennale will run from September 1st to October 29th this year), do not focus on futuristic visions, but, as the subtitle adds, a city of mountain ranges, waterways and breezes; a city of land, water and air, which have shaped its development from the beginning.
During the dynamic expansion of the capital, betting on economic efficiency, building more concrete spaces, the city's identity was left behind, modernity overshadowed the tradition of the place and the benefits drawn from the natural landscape.
So it's time to stop, look around and try to prepare for the next century by going back to the roots. To create a harmonious city of the future, which, as Byoung Soo Cho, director of the biennale, emphasizes, should be healthy, efficient and using modern technologies.
About this year's biennale
is told by its director Byoung Soo Cho
Ola Kloc: At the 4th Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism, you ask what Seoul will look like in a hundred years. Why did you choose such a long perspective?
Byoung Soo Cho: The reason I proposed Seoul’s next 100-year is to encourage the ideal and fundamental suggestions for Seoul Masterplan, rather than exactly expecting the future. If the limitations or regulations (construction-wise) are easing in the future, we could have a better perspective of Seoul. That’s why I proposed Seoul’s next 100-year masterplan.
© Seoul Biennale
Ola: What are the biggest issues Seoul is currently facing in terms of urban planning and architecture?
Byoung: With the planning of the urban and architecture, Seoul has lost its original city features. The current urban development is more focusing on its zoning, rather than considering its holistic consistency. So, there is no so-called Seoul masterplan.
When Hanyang (the past Seoul) was formed initially, it was designed with careful attention to surroundings like mountain ranges, waterways, and wind breezes. That was Seoul’s own character, and I believe that is how we could regain its identity as a city.
Seoul in the past and present
© SBAU 2023
The theme “Land Architecture and Urbanism” of SBAU 2023, could solve not only Seoul’s facing issues but also other countries of the urban planning.
Ola: What are the main differences you have observed in urban planning and architecture between Europe and Korea?
Byoung: Europe tends to consider its continuity and sustainability. On the other hand, Asia focuses on quantitative growth, rather than qualitative due to rapid industrialization. That’s why cities can be shown as chaotic. For the qualitative development of urban planning and architecture, we need to understand the history of the land.
Ola: How is Seoul responding to climate change problems? What are the main tools you are using to create a more resilient city?
Byoung: Seoul embodied an ideal urban landscape, which was an ecologically planned city; it blocks cold winter winds by Bugak and Bukhan mountains from the north; it provides cool breezes during summer towards the southern open space along the Han River. We could create a more resilient city if we pay respect to the surroundings, and think of its topographic features.
The tools (6 typologies of Seoul 100-year Masterplan Exhibition) can design a resilient and sustainable city.
© SBAU 2023
Ola: You have already mentioned the theme of the Biennale, which is "Land Architecture, Land Urbanism." Please tell us a little more about this title.
Byoung: Land Architecture refers to architecture that land, water, and wind penetrate together. It is distinguished from ‘landscape architecture’ or ‘ground scape architecture. It more deals with its environmental conditions and contexts with respect to nature.
Land Urbanism refers to urbanism that blends land, water, and wind with natural harmony. Hanyang (the past Seoul) was the city that embodied all features of Land Urbanism (Bugak and Bukhan mountains in the north fend off the cold winter wind, while the southern open space along the river takes the cool breezes in summer)
A future city needs to be a pleasant and healthy city that is adequately resilient to the nature of all seasons. Also, it needs to be an eco-friendly high-density city with efficiency in movement, energy, and time, incorporating technologies and data.
Under “Land Architecture, Land Urbanism” will introduce the ways of constructing new cities, considering land environment and culture.
Ola: And how do you envision Seoul in a hundred years?
Byoung: We could bring back the original land features of Seoul (600 years ago) similar in 100 years.
Ola: Thank you for the interview.