All Eyes on Seoul
World Design Capital 2010
By Winnie Lam
Seoul has been designated as the World Design Capital (WDC) 2010, a prestigious title bestowed on one city biennially by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID). The title celebrates the accomplishments of an innovative city that is leveraging design as a tool to enhance its social, cultural and economic development. Now, Seoul is further realizing its vision to become a cultural center of Asia through design and innovation, with a plethora of WDC projects in the pipeline. This is in addition to the city’s ongoing implementation of design policies in urban planning through its Design Seoul initiative.
A Global City of Design
Seoul debuted an ambitious urban-renewal blueprint six years ago. The restoration of Cheonggyecheon Stream, the creation of Seoul Plaza and Seoul Forest, the New Town development project and the reorganization of the public transportation transit system are among the projects dedicated to revamping the city through design. These plans are devoted not only to giving the nation’s capital a face-lift, but also to creating a safe, convenient and efficient environment for citizens, businesses and tourists—and to reawakening Seoul as a refined city of design and culture.
The commitment of the Seoul Metropolitan Government was fortified when Mayor Oh Se-hoon decided to shape Seoul into a global design hub with a slew of bold initiatives. The 48-year-old mayor is committed to the belief that the 21st century is the Age of Design, and design is the driving force behind Seoul’s economy, crucial to its social, cultural and tourism development. This aspiration was confirmed with Seoul’s appointment as the WDC 2010.
With the recent global diffusion of reputed high-tech Korean consumer brands—including LG Electronics, Samsung, Hyundai and Kia—Seoul has been defining its international image via its design capabilities. These remarkable design-led achievements, together with the city’s initial blueprint to re-create its civic environment through design, have all exemplified the spirit of the WDC designation and won the applause of the WDC jury.
While there are many awards that recognize individual accomplishments in design, the WDC designation is unique as it aims to focus on the broader essence of design’s impact on urban spaces, economies and citizens. The WDC 2010 is prepared to translate Seoul’s quantitative growth to qualitative growth with design that improves quality of life and diversity while creating a unique identity, community spirit and historical significance for the city. With a wealth of creative talents, comprehensive infrastructure and resources, as well as the government’s strong dedication, Seoul will live up to the WDC designation, proving to the world that its designs are unique, innovative and of the highest international caliber.
An International Design Hub
Under the slogan “It takes HEART,” a series of WDC projects have rolled out, demonstrating the synergistic efforts of government, industries, educational institutions, designers and citizens to reinvent Seoul while keeping Korea rooted firmly in history and tradition.
Among the projects running in high gear was the Seoul Design Olympiad (SDO). Held in October, this was SDO’s second consecutive successful year. Under the theme i DESIGN (meaning everyone can design and become a designer), the festival—comprised of conferences, exhibitions and contests—was a celebratory convergence for all designers, educators, students, businesses, citizens and tourists involved. The Seoul Design Competition, a major highlight of the SDO, was held to explore eco-friendly, future-oriented and creative design solutions.
A number of Design Seoul and WDC projects are upgrading the beauty of Seoul, encompassing the Yongsan International Business District, a new cluster of residential, office and retail neighborhoods entitled Archipelago 21 that was designed by Daniel Libeskind. A newly rebuilt City Hall is also under way, with the latest IT and digital technology as well as eco-friendly features reflecting Seoul’s iconic status and vision for the future.
Seoul’s public areas will also get a design overhaul to improve efficiency and citizens’ safety under the Design Seoul Streets project, which will boost the city’s competitiveness as a cultural and tourism metropolis. New civic installations will redesign shop signs, pedestrian walks, benches and even bicycle racks to be aesthetically pleasing and functional.
The construction of the Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) is the star project that will undoubtedly astonish Seoulites and visitors alike. Designed by world-renowned, Baghdad-born British architect Zaha Hadid, the DDP is not only a surreal modern-meets-conventional creation that tests the limits of advanced technology, but also a unique landmark that embraces the missions of the past, present and future.
The DDP surrounds the ancient city wall, which forms the central element of this composition, entitled “Metonymic Landscape.” While the external landscape of the 30,000-squaremeter park transforms Seoul into a greener city by folding into the internal shopping/dining areas below, numerous voids, undulations and depressions give park visitors glimpses into the innovative world of design, allowing the DDP to be an important link between the city’s contemporary culture, historic artifacts and nature.
Remarkably, the 85,000-square-meter DDP is also built as a mecca of design, an important icon of the Korean fashion industry that will bring economic opportunities to the country’s more than 30,000 fashion businesses. To be completed by 2011, the DDP will be the representative facility of Seoul’s major design projects and is anticipated to create a string of economic benefits brought on by the transformation of the nearby Dongdaemun neighborhood.
With the WDC designation breathing creative energy into Seoul, the city is reinventing itself as a global destination with iconic landmarks and places that create a unique ambience. Design has the power to change the world for the better, and Seoul is proving it.