Korea's Development Debate, in Physical Form

LOT-EK's Open School in Anyang forces visitors to confront the architectural contrasts right in front of them

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A series of conferences on Anyang's urban development took place earlier this year inside a “bubble” designed by Raumlabor (Courtesy Kyong Park)

When asked to direct a large public art project in Anyang, a southern suburb of Seoul, Korea, Kyong Park decided the entire project should be a platform for talking about current urban development in Korea. No surprise there: Park has been thinking big about cities in transition for years as founding director of Centrala Foundation for Future Cities in Rotterdam, founding director of the International Center of Urban Ecology in Detroit, and founder/director of New York’s Storefront for Architecture, among other institutions. Of particular interest to Park in Anyang was Korea’s growing tendency toward tearing down existing neighborhoods and replacing them with big corporate-branded residential towers.

LOT-EK APAP school
Courtesy LOT-EK

Any academic would appreciate Park’s fittingly tongue-in-cheek decision to host a series of conferences on the controversy in an actual “bubble” designed by Raumlabor. But the artists, architects, urbanists, and academics from Korea and beyond who gathered within it to discuss the city remain rooted in real world concerns. Post-conference, Anyang allowed the park (actually leftover space from an adjacent new building development) to be used for the art exhibit and its explorations, including the bumblebee-yellow Open School, an instant landmark/community space for meetings, discussions, workshops, and exhibitions designed by those masters of the shipping container genre, LOT-EK

Built from eight containers combined in a fishbone pattern, LOT-EK’s multi-level APAP School features an enclosed exhibition space, artist studios within the containers, and a terrace that opens up to the surrounding landscape. Its strong graphic treatment offers a bold counterpoint to the highrises Park’s effort critiqued, in both form and symbolism. “We designed it in a few months and built it in a few months,” says LOT-EK’s Ada Tolla. And though it was planned as temporary structure, she happily reports, the building—an instant landmark in the region—is now here to stay.

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