22 January 2008

cityplan #1: seoul as the world's design capital?

choose two areas where seoul is deficient, and the lack of greenspace and poor aesthetics immediately come to mind. a recent korea times article said it plain:

seoul will have a long way to go to realize its dream of emerging as a world-renowned design city. we have to admit that the city lacks esthetic (sic) value due to poor urban design and reckless development.

the handsome mayor waxing eloquent on the power of design. you can read an interview with him on the topic here.

the good news is that seoul mayor oh se-hoon feels the same way. in his 2006 acceptance speech, mr. mayor said that design was his main priority for economic development. oh said that the 21st century is the age of design, and that design is what will make seoul the best city of the world.

apgujeong-dong's fancy galleria department store all lit up at night.

oh's vision is to use imagination to guide future building projects to transform seoul from a "hard" city to a "soft" one. he's already set up a design headquarters to issue design guidelines for redevelopment projects big and small, from streets, sidewalks and bus stops to a 246-billion won-dongdaemun world design plaza, to be completed in 2010.

it ain't all bad. here's i-park tower, hyundai development corporation's headquarters in samseong-dong, near COEX.

the massive dongdaemun project's timeline is no coincidence. last october, the international design alliance (ida) picked seoul to be the first "world design city". the project is a biennial global competition to identify cities that create sustainable ways that realize the full potential of design to improve the social, cultural and economic quality of life for its citizens. in 2010, seoul's wdc status will culminate in a year-long celebration showing an international audience how the city is integrating design into its larger strategic development and urban revitalization vision. by beating out dubai, singapore and toronto to win the wdc's inaugural contest, seoul triumphed over other cities that are far better-known for championing design.

a coupla nice old and new korean-bred designs. lg's chocolate phone and a new concept pc from samsung.

the jury's choice wasn't a total surprise, however. the sleek design of high-tech devices by korean companies like samsung and lg have helped to transform old perceptions of korean products from cheap knock-offs of japanese and western goods to industry leaders. the wdc jury, which unanimously endorsed seoul's bid, acknowledged korea's leadership in high-tech consumer design and hoped the wtc designation would encourage seoul to realize its design potential and ambition. for his part, seoul mayor oh hopes the special design title will sharpen the domestic design industry's competitive edge, improve seoul's image as a global city, and attract more tourists.

update 3/12/2008: seoul city has launched a new website to feature public design databases.

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