City as Verb
Seoul, Korea 2020 | Seoul Hall of Architecture & Urbanism Exhibition
When we describe our cities through familiar words, we often rely on nouns: places and things that take on an object-like quality in our imaginations. Houses, streets, buses, parks, and even the term ‘city’ itself become already created artifacts handed down to us. However, in an era of societal and technological change, the idea of what defines a city is in flux. Can we now rethink its very notion as a set of transformative active processes? And as inhabitants take on a more integrated role in the creation of the city, can we now think of it as a place of citizen action?
City as Verb takes the common terminology used to describe our urban environments and simply changes them into actions. This seemingly simple conceptual shift has deep consequences: For instance, instead of naming the common urban structure as ‘street,’ we change it to ‘moving.’ The former is administered by a centralized power structure, the latter acknowledges that citizens actively and creatively move through their environment rather than passively participating in it.
City as Verb is a distilled review of the 2019 Seoul Biennale Cities Exhibition, highlighting 17 cities that reflect how urbanism is transforming into active processes. Sustaining, Moving, Mixing, Regenerating, Participating, and Layering are the 6 salient themes that describe both the potential (and problems) facing today’s metropolitan regions. Spanning 5 continents, each city in this exhibition reflects a global perspective that is also a local conversation with the city of Seoul: It inspires us to reimagine the daily ways we can actively engage in the formation and practice of our city.
curator tour with John Hong
Introduction gallery: 17 global cities are introduced.
A series of windows punctures through the spaces for a quick overview
Gallery 1: Sustaining
Whereas the noun ‘sustainability’ limits itself to a technical and standardized measure of environ-mental performance, the verb ‘sustaining’ speaks about how we can be stewards of our environ-ment, many times through the minimum of means. Instead of a singular instance, it also speaks about the continuity of our actions on a daily basis. Four selected cities map out unique ways in which sustaining is manifested.
In Amman, Jordan (Re)visiting the Valley Section by Fadi Masoud and Victor Perez-Amado proposes a hybrid strategy between agricultural and urban that can man-age endangered water resources in the politically contested Jordan River Basin.
View into alleyway: Copenhagen, Denmark’s film Great Ar-chitecture on a Small Planet by Thin Green Line Productions, travels the world highlighting the way Danish architects are responding to environmental problems with cutting edge, collaborative solutions.
In Amsterdam, Netherlands the short film Building Circular Resilient Neighborhoods by the City of Amsterdam’s International Office and Department for Planning and Sustainability, seeks to re-align the city’s in-dustrial heritage into ground-up co-created communities.
In Tokyo, Japan, the research project Urban Wild Ecology curated by Fuminori Nousa-ku and Mio Tsuneyama reveals how our daily life can be supported by many small-scale ecological attitudes that coordinate microbes, solar energy, share-housing, and urban wilderness.
Gallery 2: Moving
Where the noun forms of transport and infrastructure imply heavy, immutable systems that re-quire centralized control to implement, the verb ‘Moving’ implies a sense of lightness where citi-zens can choose of even hack multiple modes of transport.
The film Urban Mobility by the Civic Data Design Lab at MIT explores Nairobi, Kenya through the eyes of four commuters as they walk, bicycle, ride motorcycles, and take buses through both in-formal and wealthy neighborhoods.
The exhibit from Eindhoven, Netherlands titled 101 Streets by ZUS -Zones Urbaines Sensibles, takes a global analytical perspective to create portraits of existing iconic streets and how their architectures are affected by their political contexts. Forting Utopia by MIIM Office for Architecture from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia invites us to forget the conventions of how ‘good’ streets are under-stood by diving into the multi-faceted social and spatial specificities of KL’s motorways that feed the city’s rapid urbanization.
In Los Angeles, United States, the graphic novel Towards Automated Transitopia by the City Form Lab at Harvard GSD depicts how everyday Angelenos could experience new forms of automated public transport in a city where congested transit is now a daily challenge.
Gallery 3: Mixing
The goal of mixed-use urbanism was to find a synergy between large-scale parcel development and differentiated programs. In recent years however, it has been co-opted as a code word by powerful developers hoping to gentrify urban areas. The verb form ‘Mixing’ reclaims the promise of mixed-use through the agency of historical continuity and human interaction.
In Sao Paulo, Brazil, Felipe Correa and Devin Dobrowolski’s Sao Paulo: A Graphic Biography, examines how to integrate inner-city post-industrial areas during fast-paced economically driven growth, particularly through the integration of affordable housing.
In Ulsan, Korea, Co-opting Urban Industrial Symbiosis for Urban Resilience by Niall Kirkwood and Sang-Yong Cho similarly looks at the post-industrial urbanscape, this time addressing opportunities within a slowing economy through collective advocacy. In Vienna, Austria, the film/drawing, Pro-ductive City Vienna: Hidden Windows, Productive Screens, by Studio Vlay Streeruwitz strives to fundamentally shift the self-portrait of the European City as a ‘clean’ place that exports industry to a place where local industry is protected as a ‘UNESCO-type’ heritage that promotes creativity, public engagement and sustainable production.
In Zurich, Switzerland, The Distributed Cooperative proposed by TEN, addresses how Zurich’s rental housing, one-third of which must be non-profit by 2060, can incorporate digital services to evolve new forms of collectivity inserted into existing small-scale fabric.
Gallery 4: Regenerating
Today, cities are grappling with how to incorporate their original historical cores that nonetheless must harbor new functions and develop new attitudes toward preservation and regulatory road-blocks. If the verb ‘Regenerating’ can offer ways forward, it will be through strategies that revolve around contemporary social issues and fine-grain solutions rather than broad brush-strokes.
In Hong Kong, UrbanISMS: Three Short Stories about Hong Kong by OCEAN CN, re-presents the complexity of locales along Hong Kong’s southwest coast through saturated visual and spatial media that invite us to ruminate how a certain intelligence evolves from complex layers of variation.
In Lima, Peru, Framing the Collective by Sharif Kahatt and Marta Morelli, raises a critical eye to-wards the acceleration of a contemporary society divided by massive economic disparity: They pos-it that new forms of public space can combine the vernacular city core with innovative scenarios for social interaction. In Taishan, China, Elaine Yolam Kwong and Jason Ho’s research Incremental Ur-banism: Evolving Collective Forms examine traditional forms of Chinese clanship and how they can become a framework for progressive and continual change that adjusts to new socio-economic restructuring.
Gallery 5: Participating
Clarifying the loosely defined noun ‘public space,’ the verb ‘Participating’ posits a version of inter-action that is citizen driven and able to catalyze dynamic change. Inherent to actively participating in our cities at a societal scale is the idea that the sum is greater than the whole of its parts.
In Cape Town, South Africa, the project and film, The Distributed Cooperative by Urban-Think Tank documents a highly participatory planning process by residents who mapped, built, and now have managed their portion of the city for the past 28 years. Creating both the hardware of the city in terms of new housing prototypes as well as the software of livelihood programming, participation is integrated into everyday life. In Paris, France, the film, Co-Urbanism, 21 Collaborative Practices of the City,’ curated by Pavillon de l’Arsenal documents 21 different approaches where citizens partner with regulatory agencies. Through new collective thinking, the city’s services and functions are co-programmed creating hyper site-specific projects that recognize Paris as a dynamic social and ecological ecosystem.
An existing ancient ruin within the gallery acts as a backdrop to the Regenerating and Participating themes.
Gallery 6: Layering (Seoul)
As we shift away from a narrow idea of economically driven urban ‘progress’ to a culturally-based understanding of the city, the heavy infrastructure from a previous era is placed in question: Rather than demolish these bridges, overpasses, and water pumping stations however, the verb ‘Layering’ describes strategies that combine program, smart design, and structural innovation in bringing new social use to areas that once excluded citizens’ activity.
The verb ‘Layering’ describes strategies that combine program, smart design, and structural innovation in bringing new social use to areas that once excluded citizens’ activity. Public housing by Mass Studies, SAAI, Arcbody, Posco A&C, Ctopos will be built over rainwater pumping stations, garages, highways. In rethinking abandoned spaces under highway overpasses, firms such as Need Architecture, MMKM, Kyunghee University, and Simplex, will create new forms of fine-grain community space. Once cut-off waterfronts and bridges alongside the Hangang will be transformed by firms MVRDV, NOW architects, and SOAP into ecological pedestrian-friendly zones. Where single-use ‘functional’ infrastructure once created unused voids in the city, layering (over, under, and alongside) augments the role of infrastructure as essential to the social fabric of the city.
City as Verb Wednesday Seminars
The ‘City as Verb’ seminars hosted by the City of Seoul formed an important bridge between the 2019 Seoul Biennale Cities Exhibition and its upcoming continuation in 2021. In close partnership with the French, Netherlands, and Swiss embassies, the events had a twofold purpose: First to expand the important dialogue between Seoul and its global partner cities on issues of urbanism and citizen engagement, and secondly to reach a wider audience of Korean government officials, citizens, and community stakeholders. Global experts joined virtually to share insight on how their city is creatively addressing emerging urban issues. They were joined by a panel of local experts to explore commonalities and contrasts.
Seminar 1: Paris, France | 15 July 2020
Reinventing Paris, Co-building the City
Speaker: Alexandre Labasse, Director, Pavillon de l’Arsenal
The “Reinventing Paris” competition rewarded 22 innovative urban and architectural projects in Greater Paris, which have in common the integration of hybrid buildings and green spaces. These winning projects represent many models of the city of the future in terms of architectural design, new attitudes about programming, environmental innovation, and co-construction. The projects were presented as part of the “Reinventing Paris” exhibition at the Pavillon de l’Arsenal.
Co-urbanism : 15 Collaborative Fabrications of the City
Speakers: Kelly Ung and Laure Gaye, directors, Atelier Appoches !, co-curators, Co-Urbanism
Public spaces co-conception and management, ephemeral equipment support of social activation, foreign universities, non-programmed spaces, co-programming tools, program map, and open conceptions: Our lecture will review some of the tools and approaches analyzed in the exhibition, Co-Urbanism, 21 Collaborative Practices of the City.’ The various approaches demonstrate how the city’s services and functions are co-programmed through collective thinking creating site-specific projects that recognize Paris as a dynamic social and ecological ecosystem.
Choon Choi (moderator, 2021 Seoul Biennale co-curator with Dominique Perrault; Taehyung Kim (director, Seoul City Urban Space Improvement Bureau); Prof. ; Prof. Rafael Luna (2019 Seoul Biennale co-curator), Paco Bunnik (Chief City Planner of Amsterdam), Prof. Suk Yeon Yoo (Future Seoul architect); Prof. John Hong (curator, City as Verb)
Partner embassy: Institut Français / Embassy of France
Seminar 2: Amsterdam, The Netherlands | 22 July 2020
Speakers: Paco Bunnik, Chief Urban Designer, Dept. of planning and sustainability, City of Amsterdam; Tjeerd Haccou, partner Space and Matter.
The lecture by Paco Bunnik will focus and on the urban growth patterns of Amsterdam and the approaches and projects that foster resilient growth, both physically, socially, technically and naturally. Tjeerd Haccou will go into the detail of already realized and yet to be realized projects within this bigger urban framework both in Amsterdam and abroad. Specifically for this lecture, both speakers will also focus on processes of participation and social sustainability within the field of their practice.
Choon Choi (moderator, 2021 Seoul Biennale co-curator with Dominique Perrault; Prof. Seunghoy Kim (Seoul City architect), Taehyung Kim (director, Seoul City Urban Space Improvement Bureau); Prof. Eui Young Chun (Senior Vice President, Korean Institute of Architects); Prof. Seunghyun Yoon (Future Seoul architect); Prof. John Hong (curator, City as Verb)
Partner embassy: Embassy of Kingdom of the Netherlands
Seminar 3: Geneva, Switzerland | 29 July 2020
A Hybrid Territory – Switzerland as a Laboratory for Contemporary Urban Design and Beyond
Speaker: Michael Jakob, Prof. HEPIA – Geneva School of Engineering, Architecture, and Landscape
Professor Jakob discusses the contemporary situation of Switzerland beyond the usual distinctions between the urban (territory), the countryside, and (residual) nature. The focus will be the role of contemporary landscape architecture in its hybrid role.
Prof. John Hong (moderator and curator, City as Verb); Prof. Seunghoy Kim (Seoul City architect); prof. Wookjoo Jung (SNU); Prof. Dong Woo Yim (2019 Seoul Biennale co-curator); Prof. Bumjoon Kang (Future Seoul architect)
Partner embassy: Embassy of the Switzerland
Seminar 4: Rotterdam, The Netherlands / Seoul, Korea
2045 Seoul Urban Space Plan, Urban Constellation
Speaker: ZuKhyung Kim, Commissioner, Presidential Commission on Architecture Policy / OUJAE Architects
The lecture covers Future Seoul’s urban space in terms of initial topography, physical components, and place value with three agendas: daily scenery, approaching publicity, and colorful urban space. Through collaboration across various fields such as architecture, city, and landscape, the Urban Constellation is proposed as an integrated urban space plan.
Conflict and Innovation in the Museum
Speaker: Marina Otero, Director of research at Het Nieuwe Instituut
The contemporary era is characterized by radical technological, economic, cultural and social shifts. In her talk, Marina Otero Verzier will present a series of projects grounded in the principles of design and innovation – two concepts bound up with changing value systems and conflict which in turn can become a motor for collective forms of knowledge and alternative forms of living.
Prof. Seunghoy Kim (Seoul City architect); Taehyung Kim (director, Seoul City Urban Space Improvement Bureau); Prof. Seunghyun Yoon (Future Seoul architect); Hyeri Park (Associate Partner, KCAP Architects & Planners); Prof. John Hong (curator, City as Verb)
Partner embassy: Embassy of the Kindom of the Netherlands
Seunghoy Kim (Chief Architect, Seoul City), Tae-Hyung Kim (Director-General, Urban Space Improvement Bureau), Won Seok Choi (Director, Urban Space Improvement Division), Hyeon Rae Kim(Manager, Urbanism and Architecture Communications Team), Se Chang Park, Jeong Yeon An, Hye Yeong Choi (Urbanism and Architecture Communications Team)
Seoul Hall of Urbanism and Architecture
Curator and Exhibit Designer
John Hong (Prof. Seoul National University, Director, Project : Architecture)
Eunseob Suh, Researcher, Project : Architeccture, Seoul National University)
Jungho Kwon, Sohee Yoon, Shinwoo Park (Project : Architecture, Seoul National University)
2019 Seoul Biennale Cities Exhibition Curators, Dongwoo Yim (Professor, Hongik University), Rafael Luna (Professor, Hanyang University)
- Amman, Jordan: (Re)visiting the Valley Section by Fadi Masoud and Victor Perez-Amado
- Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Building Circular Resilient Neighborhoods by the City of Amsterdam’s International Office and Department for Planning and Sustainability – Paco Bunnik;
- Copenhagen, Denmark: Great Architecture on a Small Planet by Thin Green Line Productions
- Tokyo, Japan: Urban Wild Ecology curated by Fuminori Nousaku and Mio Tsuneyama
- Nairobi, Kenya: Urban Mobility by the Civic Data Design Lab at MIT
- Los Angeles, United States: Towards Automated Transitopia by the City Form Lab
- Eindhoven, Netherlands: 101 Streets by ZUS -Zones Urbaines Sensibles
- Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Forting Utopia by MIIM Office for Architecture
- Sao Paulo, Brazil: A Graphic Biography by Felipe Correa and Devin Dobrowolski
- Ulsan, Korea: Co-opting Urban Industrial Symbiosis for Urban Resilience by Niall Kirkwood and Sang-Yong Cho
- Vienna, Austria: Productive City Vienna: Hidden Windows, Productive Screens, by Studio Vlay Streeruwitz
- Zurich, Switzerland: The Distributed Cooperative proposed by TEN
- Hong Kong: UrbanISMS: Three Short Stories about Hong Kong by OCEAN CN
- Lima, Peru: Framing the Collective by Sharif Kahatt and Marta Morelli
- Taishan, China: Incremental Urbanism: Evolving Collective Forms by Elaine Yolam Kwong and Jason Ho
- Cape Town, South Africa: The Distributed Cooperative by Urban-Think Tank
- Paris, France: Co-Urbanism, 21 Collaborative Practices of the City, curated by Pavillon de l’Arsenal
- Seoul, Korea: Mass Studies, SAAI, Arcbody, Posco A&C, Ctopos, Need Architecture, MMKM, Kyunghee University, Simplex, MVRDV, NOW.