suparc architects schweitzer song seoul/frankfurt

I     news
II    profile
        2.1  ryul song
        2.2  christian schweitzer
        2.3  office
III   work
        3.1  projects
        3.2  competitions
        3.3  theory
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

          6.4.1 kaist student association workshop 2011 / design for a kaist museum
          6.4.2 prada transformer / trans-formation workshop / the student-takeover
          6.4.3 sa international summer workshop 2008 in conjunction with AA school london / korean DMZ: a border opportunity
          6.4.4 sa summer workshop 2007 / hyper.polis - old watercourses, new perspectives - seoul
                studio schweitzer song ahn / foster's home for imaginary friends

foster's home for imaginary friends
studio ryul song, christian schweitzer, sangsoo ahn
with jaewoong ko, suhyun kim, jeehyun kim, juhwa baek, jaehwa jung, eogin chae, junyong choi

in sa 2007 summer workshop_hyper.polis III_old watercourses new perspectives_seoul, sa school / sa seoul association of architects
workshop july 28 - aug. 03 2007, korea national university of arts, seoul
exhibition aug. 18 -
aug. 23 2007, former seoul central station, seoul

content: synopsis / studio work / exhibition

Synopsis / Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends
by Christian Schweitzer

The population of Seoul is stacked in always higher mono-functional apartment buildings. Historically grown urban fabrics are floored with the lawnmower principle. Gated apartment complexes destroy any notion of what is called 'urbanity.' A nomadic society emerges, moving from one apartment to the other, upwards (quite literally) the social ladder, breaking up traditional family patterns, communities, and social structures. Meanwhile more than 54% of the population is living in these urban non-places, and the number is steadily increasing. The real-estate speculations have swollen up to a giant bubble bursting any time. The population of Seoul is declining, freighted into satellite cities stomped out of the ground in an irresponsible speed. The car is still the number one priority in any urban redevelopment. At the same time the general population is aging excessively, by 2020 the Korean society will be an "aged population" with more than 14% elderly people. 80% (92% in Seoul) of the current population in their 20s is getting an academic education, of which only 30% will find an equivalent job. The unemployment rate is increasing steadily, so does the crime rate. The income gap is drastically widening. 1,2 million women are engaged in prostitution, which is about 5% of the female population. The air pollution is getting worse and worse, the impact of the climate change is starting to leave its marks.

Considering all these problems, why the hell are we dealing with the Han River? According to a recent survey more than 30% of the inhabitants of Seoul recognize the Han River as the first landmark and subject of identification in Seoul, followed by the Cheongaechun River and the Bukhan Mountain, far behind only in fourth place a manmade structure, the Gyeoungbok Palace, is mentioned. Therefore Seoul in its perception is the most 'Seoul', where it actually isn't at all; one of the densest cities in the world, the mega city Seoul, identifies itself with the most anti-urbane feature of all, the most radical of all spaces, the void; a void as scale less, inconceivable and ephemeral as Seoul itself. Dealing with the Han River is dealing with the essence of Seoul, not looking at its problems but at its state of mind and therefore at its potentials beyond its flaws.
This identification of Seoul with the Han River, with a natural feature, raises interesting questions about the understanding of Seoul as a "Heimat" to its inhabitants. The German word "Heimat" (maybe best to translate with the metaphysical meaning of 'gohyang') refers to the relationship between human being and space. Nevertheless the geographical-historical containment of the reference areas is not a fixed one, but movable depending on certain situations. "Heimat" could describe a region, a landscape, but also a city, a country, a nation and even a way of living or self-definition ("my home is poetry"). It is the entirety of the circumstances in which one is living, in which one is growing up; it forms his/her psychic. "Heimat" therefore does not describe a specific location, but identity. This makes the Han River a Heimat-generator, the essential creator of meaning. But if "nature" is a key element of thinking, unlike in Europe where the point of identification with a city always is a building, it raises at the same time the question: why then does the rest of Seoul look like a tuned trash bag?

And to make it even more confusing the Han River is probably the most neglected, disconnected and non-functional space in Seoul. The common thought would be to solve these superficial problems, but at the same time risking by its profane-ization to destroy its significance for the psychology of the inhabitants of Seoul. The embankments, highways and walls of apartments are probably the reason for the idealization of the Han River. Its physical disconnection triggers an "Alice in Wonderland"-effect, through the rabbit hole, the harder to reach the higher the reward, the more distant the larger it becomes (who does not know this wonderful relieving one-minute moment crossing the Han River by car or subway leaving the city far behind, which would instantly disappear if we knew, we could actually stop here). Utilization means banal-ization and disney-fication through profane and common function. The Han River would become a prevention machine that reproduces the illusion of reality. By simulating an ideal world along the river the population of Seoul would be suggested to be at the Han River in the real world, so they can transform the inadequacy and kitschyness of their existence into an illusion.
2) By subducting the distance-ing the Han River would lose its most important role as the probably biggest emotion and sorrow dumpster in Korea as it can be seen in every TV-drama(fig 1). Only the present inhospitality guarantees the catharsis. The potential of the Han River does not lie in its physicality but in its immaterial presents as the last fixture for the deracinated nomadic population of Seoul. As the opposite of the 'unknown', the 'strangeness' of Seoul, "Heimat" is also understood in terms of the utopian as 'the yet to be established place beyond alienation.'

In this studio we try to deal with the utilization of the intangible function of the Han River as a psychological and emotional projection screen. We will try to find out whether the Han River has a potential beyond architectural function and program, whether the subconscious perception of a 'landmark' can be utilized beyond its physical limits as a conceptual tool to deal with the "phenomenon"of Seoul as a whole. In a way we try to answer Jean Baudrillard's essential question to architecture: "Is there a necessity, is there a possibility to structure this space in a different way than by its endless horizontal and vertical extension? In other words: is it possible in the light of the radicality of space to reveal a truth of architecture?"

Workshop Preparation: Keywords for the task are: 'Heimat', Identity of Seoul, image and perception of the Han River, architectural utilization of an irrational feeling, psychology, sociology and art. The students will be asked to collect and evaluate secondary 'literature' dealing with the Han River like TV-dramas, movies, cartoons, pulp novels, mythology, poems, song lyrics, postcards, commercials, advertisements, image campaigns, documentaries, interviews, statistics, surveys, memorabilia, diary and blog entries, amateur photos, trash and kitsch, etc. etc., in order to create a mental map of the perception and idealization of the Han River. The aim is to map the mental transformation of the Han River from a physical location towards a state of mind.
Main Workshop: In the beginning of the main workshop according to the results of the pre-studies and research keywords are extracted that reflect the 'philosophical' programs, functions, and values of the Han River. These keywords will be tested on their ability to be applied on Seoul as a whole, on the one hand as (re)activators of existing conditions due to their potential as 'Heimat'-generators, on the other hand as inventions to trigger this generating effect. Questions have to be answered like "can we buy the Han River for our home", "can we bring it to other parts of Seoul", "do we need it anyway at all," and "why is Seoul not located at the sea" (or maybe it is and we just don't know it).
References: Life itself, "Being a burden is great. It's like my ... seventh favorite thing to be." Blooregard "Bloo" Q. Kazoo

1) Borrowed from the cartoon-show "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends" created by Craig McCracken in 2004, (c) by Cartoon Network.
Eight-year-old Mac has outgrown his imaginary friend, says his mother, so he takes his buddy Bloo (a walking, talking security blanket) to Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. Here all sorts of odd characters, given up by their creators, are welcome to stay until new kids come to adopt them.
2) Compare Jean Baudrillard in "Simulacres et Simulation" [Simulacra and Simulation], Editions Galilee, Paris 1981.
3) Jean Baudrillard, "Architektur: Wahrheit oder Radikalitaet?" [Architecture: Truth or Radicalism?], Reihe: Essays Nr. 40, Verlag Droschel, Graz 1999, page 5.

Blooregard Q. Kazoo

fig 1: Blooregard Q. Kazoo commenting Casper-David Friedrich's "Monk by the Sea"from 1809 at the Palace Charlottenburg in Berlin, June 2007.1)

Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends
Studio Work

sa workshop 2007
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          6.4.5 sa summer workshop 2006 / hyper.polis - slow city - suncheon
                studio schweitzer song / prototyping - local strategies and global thinking

          6.4.6 ua-sa winter master class 2005 / cheonggyecheon cha-cha

VII   contact

suparc schweitzer song 2000-2013