Cities Exhibition: Commoning Cities

Cities Today

Cities today are facing daunting challenges such as globalization, rapid development of digital civilization, climate change, resource depletion, natural disasters and imbalances in consumption and capital. Along with such universal problems that all cities face in common, each city must sustain its city based on its unique history, local culture, social and geographical context. While the traditional way of city administration that oversees cities in the past served as a top-down system that is politically planned and executed based on the central management organization, cities in today’s world are jointly formed through the participation of stakeholders of diverse backgrounds, knowledge and life experiences. These behaviors are mainly cultural, artistic, and social, and they have a mutually-supporting relationship with the city’s policies. The modern citiesalready recognize that the physical heritage and rigid public policies left by modern cities have lost the power to sustain the city safely in the future. Moreover, the cities realize that, in order to overcome such limitations, active action, participation, cooperation, creativity and experiments are required as the only ways that can lead us to the future city.

Curator: Helen Hejung Choi

Since 2010, Helen Hejung Choi has been an assistant professor of architecture at Kookmin University. After studying architecture at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the Columbia Graduate School and working in New York for six years, Helen Hejung Choi moved to Seoul, Korea and started to work on architecture projects and workas a professor. She was a curator of the 2011 Gwangju Design Biennale and responsible for researching, planning and exhibiting architecture collections of the Culture Information Service at Gwangju Asia Culture Center and is now curatorfor Cities Exhibition at the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism.

World Cities

‘Cities Exhibition’ is designed to explore the value and meaning of cities as commons which is embedded and operate in various governance mechanisms of cities (governance of city)in the world. It also discusses the present and future of cities as commons in the 21st century through examining various ways the cities use to deliberate, operate, imagine and execute their policies for the city. The World Cities Exhibition is an exhibition that displays and interprets the crisis of commons each city faces currently, public projects being planned and executed by cities and public policies developed by cities. It seeks to explore the possibilities of the survival of and experiments with the cities as commons in the 21st century by sharing the approaches taken by people of cities to protect and sustain the cities by themselves as members of the city.

For common understanding and in-depth exploration of cities with different historical and cultural backgrounds, all installations of the Cities Exhibition can be categorized into six different questions. These questions related to boundary issues, the overall urban vision for urban sustainability, ownership of commons, urban residence, how to understand and connect healthy relationships, urban production and regeneration can help us distinguish dozens of projects and, at the same time, they can be the common questions that are thrown about the future cities as commons. Through the exhibits proposed by the participating cities, one can ask again about the problems of the city that we took for granted, reinterpret them, and explore new possibilities of cities as commons in the 21st century.

Participating cities:

  • Bogota
  • Naples
  • Saint Petersburg
  • Rabat
  • London
  • Amsterdam
  • Rome
  • Messina
  • Paris
  • Barcelona
  • Madrid
  • Berlin
  • Oslo
  • Reykjavik
  • Athens
  • Vienna
  • Nicosia
  • San Francisco
  • Medellin
  • Mexico City
  • Tijuana-San Diego
  • Sao Paulo
  • Alexandria
  • Johannesburg
  • Middle East-North Africa
  • Tehran
  • Dubai
  • Sydney
  • Singapore
  • Tokyo
  • Beijing
  • Shanghai
  • Macau
  • Hong Kong-Shenzhen
  • Shenzhen
  • Chinese Cities
  • Jakarta
  • Bangkok
  • Mumbai
  • Chennai
  • Jeju
  • Changwon
  • Youngju
  • Sejong
  • Gwangju
  • Pyeongyang
Curator: Helen Hejung Choi

Since 2010, Helen Hejung Choi has been an assistant professor of architecture at Kookmin University. After studying architecture at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the Columbia Graduate School and working in New York for six years, Helen Hejung Choi moved to Seoul, Korea and started to work on architecture projects and workas a professor. She was a curator of the 2011 Gwangju Design Biennale and responsible for researching, planning and exhibiting architecture collections of the Culture Information Service at Gwangju Asia Culture Center and is now curatorfor Cities Exhibition at the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism.

Seoul Libre Maps

Curator: E Roon Kang Wonyoung So

Seoul Libre Maps proposes ways to overcome the social, technological, and political restrictions related to online map-making. Using open data and open-source mapping tools, the project aims to reexamine the role of maps as commons.

The emergence of the Google Maps and the popularization of the smartphones have rapidly shifted the ways we consume geographic data. Open geospatial data platforms such as OpenStreetMap (OSM) has dismantled the geopolitical authority which the maps during the Cold War had acquired, and therefore enabled general public to be engaged with digital maps in variety of ways beyond passive reading. However, Seoul is excluded from this trend because of the limited, government controlled access to geospatial data due to its political surroundings. This excessive control, manifested through oligopoly of large internet corporations, resulted in online mapping services that are tied strictly to their business plans, ultimately resulting in proprietary maps as opposed to the free (libre) maps which anyone can access and alter without any restriction.

Seoul Libre Maps consists of a series of two-day workshops, lead by artists, designers, and engineers, to advocate for independent mapping practices. Participants of each workshop will be creating their own maps with the themes provided by the facilitators, using various online and offline tools. All the geographic data generated during the process will be made public through OSM database, in the hopes to foster independent map-making and to increase awareness in free (libre) maps as commons.

Seoul

Seoul, where one-fifth of the total population of the country live, has went through a period of expansion and growth with constraints that it is blocked by surrounding mountainous areas and fewer plains that can be used for development. The masterplan-oriented plan mechanism, which was introduced as a modern urban management method in the industrialization period of Seoul since the 1960s, was a flat land-based system that was effective in modern Western cities. The viewpoint focusing on the development of flatland, which was applied to Seoul, a city that has many mountainous and hilly areas, is applied as individual solutions to the urgent urban issues at the time, creating various levels within the city of Seoul.

A deep and vast basement level that is lower than the bottom of the Han River such as underground air-raid shelters, underground sidewalks, and subways, the land level developed densely through housing site development, land readjustment and urban redevelopment toaccommodate the surging population in the city, the elevated levels represented by numerous decks built to occupy the roads and all the available spaces with overpasses and buildings to address traffic congestion and ensure fast transportation services, and the mountain level occupied by the people displaced from the plains for development are the four layers of Seoul.

These sections are the intermittent city levels developed based on the government-led top-down development planreflecting on the issues faced by the city such as transportation, flood control, housing, national economy, realization of the image of advanced city and military confrontation, creatingbig and small boundaries and centers in Seoul and uneven public spaces and lives in Seoul. In the 2000s, when the rate of urbanization reached the final stage, Seoul realized that the existing growth method was no longer valid due to population stabilization and changes in the economic and social situation caused by the global economic crisis. This suggests that the viewpoint of urban development needs to be turned into urban renewal based on a different point of view by moving away from the demolition type development plan based on the master plan which has been generalized in the past. Through this exhibition on ‘Rethinking Seoul through Section’, one can look at how the city planning method has been changing from the viewpoint of the topography of Seoul rather than the existing view focused on flat land.

Curator: Sora Kim

Sora Kim is a public architect of Seoul and is professor of architecture at the University of Seoul. Her major works include the remodeling of the Hwigyeong-dong Children's Library and the Giriwool Daycare Center and she runs the Institute of Space Design Strategy.