Open lecture 4 April 2019: Seoul as Urban Methodology

What makes cities liveable, and how should we respond to the constant redevelopment of city spaces?

Open lecture organized by Helsinki Institute of Urban and Regional Studies

4 APRIL 2019, 5.30-7 PM

Think Corner/University of Helsinki

Yliopistonkatu 4

Two authors of popularly acclaimed books on Seoul, contemporary urban historian Kim Shiduck (Seoul National University) and architect Hwang Doojin (Doojin Hwang Architects) will discuss their street-based perspectives of contemporary Seoul city while reflecting on commonalities and contrasts to Helsinki.

Owing to the viral song, the best internationally known district of Seoul is likely Gangnam (“south of the river”). Known today for its skyscrapers and sky high real estate, in the 1960s Gangnam was still open farmland. The manufacturing district of downtown Seoul, meanwhile, that has been the backbone of South Korea’s economic development, has recently been featured in The Guardian in a piece highlighting the trauma of top-down redevelopment projects. The greater number of Seoulites, however, live their lives in the many everyday neighbourhoods of greater Seoul.

For the past decade, Kim Shelduck has been systematically exploring by foot each and every neighbourhood of Seoul. In his recent book, “Seoul Proclamation” (서울 선언, 2018), Kim challenges Koreans’ common assumption of the “real Seoul” constituting only the downtown area defined by the old city gates of the Chosŏn dynasty (1392-1910) capital. His second book on Seoul focuses on the greater Seoul surburbs, Seoul-Incheon corridor, and new towns.

Hwang Doojin is an author of two recent books, “Rainbow Cake Architecture” (무지게떡 건춘, 2015) and “The Most Urban Lifestyle” (가장 도시적인 삶, 2017). Both books examine and promote “rainbow cake architecture” – multifunctional buildings that combine commercial and living spaces. In his work as an architect, Hwang practices as he preaches, and his own residence, situated beside Gyeongbok palace, is combined with his company office.

Hwang and Kim both emphasize the need for human-centered urban developments and the importance of documenting, and wherever possible, incorporating Seoul’s modern and contemporary heritage alongside early layers of history.