by Hussam Dakkak (AADipl2012)
18 March 2013 Architectural Association, London   The Emerging Corporate Territories Visiting School investigates the emergence of cities that are rising across the corporate horizon. These are cities that are built by capital for capital, whose ethos is based on economic power and fiscal strength. It is a phenomenon emblematic of capitalism; born in the United States and now converging east. The economist John O’Sullivan describes this shift from East to West as the great convergence. It is first and foremost a convergence of capital, which seems to bypass the geo-political distinctions and rules we became accustomed to in the 20th century.   The ambition of the Visiting School is to address this flow of capital through its architectural manifestation and impact on the city of Songdo, in South Korea, which is currently undergoing the stress of financial growth.   The classic corporate models of cities like Chicago and New York, and their evolution in the vast territories in the Sun Belt and in the West Coast, will serve as precedents to understand the operative power of the corporate image as a total fictive world (self sufficient and autonomous) through its different elements from the typical plan, to the curtain wall, to the plaza, the atria, the parking lot and so on.   The Visiting School is proposed across a span of three years, where the impact of corporate architecture will be analyzed challenged and re-proposed at three scales: the city and its informal planning, the building and the street, and finally at the human scale of the employee.
The territorial scale aims to decipher how the corporate bonanza is affecting Songdo. We will put into question whether we can re-think the rapid informal spread of the metropolis through the insertion of fragments of urban strategies borrowed from other parts of the world.  We will challenge the corporate grid and its inception as an overall organizational tool or as an aesthetic principle of order. Using the master-plan as a design tool we will try to answer and raise more questions about the relationship between the structure and the image of the city, as well defining the boundaries of the corporate territory and in doing so exercising the limits of the proposed schemes.   The building scale looks into the single building level of the corporate territory, where the buildings are read as nodes feeding into larger systems of operation (the components constituting the urban model).   Taking as a given starting point the dominant form of the typical plan, the deus ex machina of architectural solutions, each student will have to propose a curtain wall facade system as a conscious threshold between inside and outside, a filter, or mask or even symbol which embodies the immanent physiognomy of the corporate image. Feeders such as economic drivers and requirements addressed by economists and entrepreneurs will help shape the outcome of the envelope systems.   The human scale is that of the worker who is redefining the interior configurations of the office as he is gazed upon increasingly as a social machine, rather than a desk engine. Consequentially, like a magnet behind the curtain wall, he extracts more and more aspects of what he remembers life to be like out on the streets of the city. More unpredictable in its outcome, this third phase will focus on the production of a detail of the workers life as an evidence of his belonging to the corporate image, as the ultimate intrusion of work into life, or their great convergence.   Proposed by Beom Kwan Kim, Costantino Sambuy, Jin Kim and Hussam Dakkak, this Visiting School strives to uncover, document and re-propose the limits that allow the corporate city to be a totally fictive world. We aim to reveal the discrepancies which lie behind the seemingly seamless, infinite and immanent world of the grid.
All images are of Songdo International Business District Image credit: Sungjin Kim   For more information: Korea Visiting School website Korea Visiting School Programme Brief AA Visiting School website