suparc architects schweitzer song seoul/frankfurt

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        2.1  ryul song
        2.2  christian schweitzer
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III   work
        3.1  projects
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        3.3  theory

          3.3.1  plastic space

Plastic Space: Temporary Impossibilities in Seoul
by Christian Schweitzer

Architectural design and discourse in Seoul employs the same terminology used in the western world. Yet on closer inspection, these terms have a very specific and far more radical meaning in the Korean context. In other words, both what we know and do not know has no relevance in Seoul. Everything is “sucked up” and “swallowed by” this overwhelming urban organism. Seoul stretches what we think we know about architecture to a point where that knowledge dissolves into an abstraction, disconnected completely from any pre-determined terminology.

Time: In Seoul time is not linear. It seems to exist only as a highly compressed single moment where everything happens simultaneously. The very idea of creating a building is already laced with obsolescence. Indeed the speed at which the city is built and rebuilt makes terms like constancy or continuity irrelevant. Here the architect has to provide a solution to a problem before it is even uttered. A similar disparity is encountered when considering the lifespan of a building in contrast to the value of the ground on which it sits. Compared to its site, the value of a building is so low that it has no influence on its very right to exist. In this regard every building in Seoul may be thought of as a temporary structure.

Context: On first glance, in Seoul the ‘existing’ radically withdraws itself from economies of design communication and difference within an existing context. On second glance an all-embracing sameness is revealed despite an ostensible heterogeneity where everything refuses to relate to anything, only focused on itself and its own advantages. In Seoul thee is the endless repetition of the same building being programmed to whatever current user behaviour is needed. Therefore every building in this infinite chain becomes exchangeable, never leaving a gap after its replacement. Such endless repetition reduces the notion of context ad absurdum.

Function: Seoul is flexibly multi-functional. The function and program of a building might change at any time even during construction. The Seoul built environment is able to adapt to anything and everything only to abandon its course in the very next moment. Therefore Seoul is widely indeterminate: functions shift, overlap and exchange in complete disconnection from built structures. This disjunction insures the extinction of any specific function. Building, designing and developing has to be flexible to let anything happen anytime or anywhere. Otherwise a building becomes an interference factor in the city.

Space: In Seoul space seems flat. Space is reduced to basic development limits, from the standard thickness of a wall to the barest separation between interior and exterior. No other form of space seems to exist. Even walls are opportunistically utilized as information carriers, or storage, or privacy screens, shifting the idea of a wall from the spatial to a reductively functional – not only separating its self but disconnecting between the spaces on either side of it. Consequentially Seoul seems like a continuous interiority, making impossible any reference point for one to see oneself in relation to the city. In Seoul, if you are inside a building you are anywhere and nowhere at once. The quality of space is not relational but an abstract idea of space relating only unto itself.

Form: Form-generating methodologies developed for un-related contexts are applied in Seoul almost randomly, disconnected from any underlying theoretical motivation. In this regard form is no longer generated, but rather it is applied. This begs a subtle but crucial distinction. Form as the expression of an idea is reduced to form as the expression of form. Therefore it might be said that Seoul has abandoned the question of form in urban architecture. Form disconnected from content, idea, and methodology, self-determinedly excuses and excludes itself from the architectural design process. Form in Seoul ‘just is’, whatever the implications of that might be.

Material: In a multifunctional, indeterminate environment such as Seoul the question of material becomes a purely circumstantial one. Material might be used according to availability, and not necessarily even in terms of price. Simply, the possibility of material expression is undercut. Because a building exists only in the present moment, questions of durability, sustainability, or long-term maintenance do not arise and an unbridled palette of materials can be applied. Ironically given the coupling of seemingly infinite choice and a diminished responsibility to deal in, say, tectonic ethics, Seoul has vastly expanded material vocabulary. For example, a simple plastic foil has the ability to outlast conventional materials and to communicate more freely and more relevantly than established ones.

With these observations in mind, fundamental questions arise. How can one design a building that does not want to be anything, that does not want to relate to anything, that does not want to represent anything? How can one design a building that essentially has no function, no economic life expectancy, or no value to anyone?

published in studioplex volume 1: architecture, a timely matter,
pp. 220-227









          3.3.2  suncheonization
          3.3.3  the black borderline
          3.3.4  liquid plans
          3.3.5  korean/german moot
          3.3.6  the ulterior dimensions of the line
          3.3.7  architecture as non-objectivity
          3.3.8  die tür zum garten
          3.3.9  setup for an electrotectural experiment
          3.3.10 zur psychologie des sexus
IV    exhibitions
        4.1  installations
        4.2  project exhibitions
        4.3  curation
V   publications
VI    teaching
        6.1  design studio
        6.2  theory classes
        6.3  lectures
        6.4  workshops
VII   contact

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