AA VISITING SCHOOL SEOUL 2014: A REFLECTION Review

by Costantino Sambuy, Jin Kim, Beom Kwan Kim and Hussam Dakkak  
03 October 2014 Seoul, Korea   241, Incheon Tower-daero, Songdo. Day one, around noon of a torrid summer day.   Our eyes wandered around the large and hot lobby.   The scene, two little ladies, in baby blue uniforms that would usually be seen in the aisle of an airplane, were sitting behind a slanted marble desk — slanted, say, the way Zaha would have it, as if the world only exists in two dimensions. They moved gently at a kind mechanical rhythmic pace.   [caption id="attachment_3453" align="alignnone" width="360"]Songdo Site Visit Image credit: Andrew Y Kim Songdo Site Visit
Image credit: Andrew Y Kim[/caption]   The elevators were at the back of the building, tucked away in a black granite hallway. While leaving the ground floor, we contemplated the landscape beyond: workers and machines digging; large vacant lots with the desolate look of reclaimed land, all waiting for a city; the city of tomorrow.  In the horizon, an idyllic golf course delimiting and edging the frame of the new peninsula just before the opening of the grey ocean at Incheon bay.
The Posco E&C building is comprised of two towers of blue glass, with large triangular facets rising from a large glass lobby overlooking “Central Park”. In a room within one of the towers, we were greeted by a slideshow and a buffet of Oreos and soft drinks. In the other tower, we were shown a sample floor: a large open plan carpeted space contained within the confines of an abstract geometrical space. It was the kind of deep space that seemed to be uncontaminated by human presence, manifesting at its best the unemotional abstraction that speculative development has come to stand for. Just space, potentially infinite, hidden behind a glass shell that reflects the sky.     It is with a collection of these shells - each student being tasked to design a facade for a corporate high-rise development - that we returned to the lobby ten days later. Twelve of them standing proud on a white podium in the large lobby, two rows of six models facing each other, backed by their respective drawings. At the far end, a single podium explained that the occasion of their gathering was the academic wedding of Posco E&C - the construction and real estate development branch of one of the largest industrial groups in the world - and the AA Visiting School in Seoul. Two white vinyl banners, hanging from three floors up, announced the opening of the show and the end of the workshop.   No more sleepless nights.
On the bus to Songdo from Seoul, the students held their models precariously on their laps, afraid of falling asleep and crushing them. The same day at the break of dawn, some were spraying the acrylic models on the grassy roof of the architecture and engineering building of the Seoul National University, nestled in a green valley right at the base of the great Gwanaksan Mountain. In the distance the first rays of light began to hit the skin of Hanwa Tower in Yeouido, designed in the wake of the Olympic Games by SOM, glowing in hues of orange, red and pink off the pure gold film sandwiched between glass. A few were still laser cutting, some gluing, sanding and drawing.   We returned again the following day after some much-needed rest and in smarter attire to present the work that had been done. The students explained their projects directly to a team led by Andrew Y. Kim, manager of the Architecture Division of Posco E&C. It was the first time for most of them to present not to an academic panel but rather to a real client. It might have been easier had we just told each other in a jury the nuances of each facade we had designed, keeping it within the familiar arena of our thoughts. But we believe it was more relevant to discuss our ideas with those who really build the things we dream about.   [caption id="attachment_3452" align="alignnone" width="360"]Exhibition at Posco E&C Headquarters Image credit: Minjoo Kim Exhibition at Posco E&C Headquarters
Image credit: Minjoo Kim[/caption]   For more information: Visiting School Seoul Prospectus Visiting School Seoul Microsite Visiting School Seoul 2013 on AA Conversations