Korea’s first biennale dedicated to discussions on the topics of “cities” and “architecture” is being held in Seoul.

Seoul Metropolitan Government and the Seoul Design Foundation announced that the First Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism (Seoul Biennale) will be held for two months, from September 2 to November 5, 2017, in areas around Seoul, including Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) and Donuimun Museum Village.

Since the inauguration of Seoul Mayor Park Won Soon in 2011, the direction of Seoul’s urban policy has shifted towards the promotion of urban regeneration and restructuring Seoul into a “sharing city.” Through the Seoul Biennale, representatives of Seoul will have an opportunity to discuss the changing role of architecture in cities with representatives from other cities around the world.

This inaugural Seoul Biennale was co-directed by Hyungmin Pai, professor of architecture at the University of Seoul, and Alejandro Zaera-Polo, a world-renowned architect and professor at Princeton University. Pai was the curator for the Korean Pavilion, which was awarded the Golden Lion for Best National Participation, at the 2014 Venice Biennale. Zaera-Polo is a renowned Spanish-born architect whose major works include the Yokohama International Passenger Terminal.

To be held under the theme “Imminent Commons,” the Seoul Biennale consists of four main parts, including the two major exhibitions, “Cities Exhibition” and “Thematic Exhibition,” Live Projects, which will take place at major historical and industrial sites in Seoul, and various citizen participation programs.

Planned to be held in Donuimun Museum Village, the Thematic Exhibition showcases 39 projects that present various types of solutions for urban problems, such as technology, policy, lifestyle, and design solutions, based on the “Nine Commons.” The Nine Commons consists of four ecology commons – air, water, fire, and earth – and five technology commons — making, sensing, moving, recycling, and communicating. Donuimun Museum Village is a village rich in history and culture that has been created through urban restoration efforts. It is home to remodeled hanok (traditional Korean houses) and about 30 buildings dating from the Japanese colonial era to the 1980s. Along with the Seoul Biennale, it was opened to the public for the first time in September.

The “Cities Exhibition” introduces public projects that have been implemented in cities around the world to resolve various urban issues. This exhibition is being held in the DDP, which will serve as a platform for comparing and contrasting the diverse common values of global cities, and will feature the projects of about 50 cities, including New YorkLondonViennaSan FranciscoShanghai, and Pyongyang.

The Donuimun Museum Village where the Thematic Exhibition is taking place

Of particular note, the Pyongyang Exhibition showcases a model of a typical apartment in Pyongyang, with a floor size of 36 square meters, based on the theme of “Changes in Pyongyang’s City Space and Housing Culture.” In planning this exhibition, consultations were sought from South Korean experts on North Korea, including experts at the Ministry of Unification and the National Intelligence Service Korea. The entrance, living room, bedrooms, kitchen, and bathrooms have all been constructed to match those of real homes in North Korea, and the space has been furnished with custom-made furniture and wallpaper, just like those found in Pyongyang apartments. In addition, home appliances were brought from North Korea, creating an experience where visitors feel as if they have stepped into a genuine Pyongyang apartment.

“Seoul Biennale will provide a platform for communication between regular people and experts in various fields and discussions on urban architecture in Seoul,” said Co-director Hyungmin Pai. He added, “It will also be an opportunity for us to discover the potential of Seoul as a sharing city.”

For more details please visit the Seoul Biennale’s official website: http://www.seoulbiennale.org/

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