The 2019 Seoul Biennale of Architecture & Urbanism’s main theme RECALLS THE CITY AS A “COLLECTIVE ARTIFACT”, leading to a profund reflection about the CO-EXISTENCE AMONG HUMAN BEINGS, and how architecture and the built  space in general may affect it. The contemporary city is a whole of heterogeneous elements and functions, where often the role of social glue iserroneously entrusted to public spaces. If it is true that PUBLIC SPACE PLAYS AN URBAN ROLE, it is not always true that this is also social. In fact, a public space in order to transform itself into a COLLECTIVE SPACE NEEDS A SERIES OF ACTIVITIES AND FUNCTIONS THAT MAKE IT ATTRACTIVE. So, it is clear that a place can be considered “collective” not only because its public aim, but it needs to be attractive and interesting for the people who will use it.

This is the main aim of Cedric Price’s Fun Palace, that overcomes the idea of public space, imagining A SPACE FOR THE ENTERTAINMENT. Not an ordinary building, but a “social interactive machine, highly adaptable to the shifting cultural and social conditions of its time and place”. (S. Matthews in Technoetic Arts: A Journal of Speculative Research). In 1961, Price had already highlighted the IMPORTANCE THAT FREE TIME HAS IN OUR DAILY LIFE, defining a design able to offer all the leisure activities that people may need. MARU Square is a perfect example of a place that despite being a free-public space, open to everybody, can be considered an empty space, with no attractive functions.A place for everybody, but not always able to meet the people needs. SO, HOW THIS “PUBLIC SPACE” (MARU SQUARE) CAN RISE TO BE A “COLLECTIVE SPACE”, WHERE PEOPLE CAN STAY AND ENJOY DAILY LIFE TOGETHER? AND HOW THIS PLACE CAN BE CONNECTED TO THE BIENNALE EVENT?

The main idea was to propose a NEW STRUCTURE PLACED ABOVE THE EXISTING MARU SQUARE, able to turn that place into a collective space. A space completely DEDICATED TO THE SHARING OF EXPERIENCES among people. A space designed for the community, that at the same time, would be able to portray an example directly connected to the main theme of the Biennale. We decided to REPRESENT THE COMPLEXITY OF THE CONTEMPORARY URBAN FABRIC THROUGH A URBAN MACHINE. All the pathways, squares and public functions (constituent elements of the City itself), overcoming social divisions, have been replicated into a regular system grid, constituting the backbone of the  Urban Machine. This is going to improve the potentialof the already existing public space (MARU SQUARE),
thanks to a mix of public functions dedicated to every visitor of the Square. So, the proposed system would be a COLLECTIVE SPACE, where tourists, workers and residents can stay, learn, relax, and, above all, share experiences in a unique context.

The URBAN MACHINE, despite its temporary usage required, CAN BE RETAINED, ABLE TO ADAPT ITSELF OVER TIME. Starting from a standard layout, it can change, adding or subtracting elements, exactly replicating the city’s ability of reconfiguring its own spaces, adapting to the citizens’ changing needs and expectations. Infact, after the costruction of the Urban Machine, PEOPLE WILL BE ABLE TO PROPOSE ITS NEW FUNCTIONS AND ACTIVITIES, DEFINING DIFFERENT KIND OF SPATIAL CONFIGURATIONS.

The project is NOT A SIMPLE PAVILION (1), but a URBAN MACHINE (2), where is possible to meet and socialize in the many PUBLIC SPACES (3), to took part in a conference, a movie or an exhibition into the CONFIGURABLE SQUARE (4), to let the kids play together in the PLAYGROUND AREA (5), to play sports in the basketball field or in the SPORT AREA (6), to enjoy paintings and sculptures in the EXHIBITION AREA (7), to interact with the city thanks to the COMMUNICATIVE DISPLAY WALLS (8), or simply to admire the city from the BELVEDERE (9), platform. a new point of view. It is a Urban Machine that profundly represents the complexity of the CONTEMPORARY CITY (10)!

The main Configurable Square is placed at the center of the Urban Machine, welcoming visitors coming from Sejong-daero, or from the Seoul Hall of Urbanism and Architecture. The design main purpose was to REMIND TO THE IDEA OF MARU, the physical heart of the traditional korean housing and the daily life, by PROPOSING A CENTRAL FLEXIBLE SPACE, ABLE TO ADAPT ITSELF ON THE USERS NEEDS AND PECULIAR EVENTS. The STANDARD CONFIGURATION consists in a FREERLY ACCESSIBLE PUBLIC SQUARE, with seats and green grass areas, and a flight of steps that let people to lay down and relax, for a total of 115 seating spaces. The THEATRE CONFIGURATION provides the chance to ARRANGE A STAGE in the middle of the Square, for very different kind of ARTISTIC PERFORMANCES, and with perculiar backgrounds. In this case, many seatings are disposed in front of the stage, for a total of 132 seats. By adding more seatings, and providing a smaller stage at the center of the Square, the CONFERENCE CONFIGURATION will let to hold here many MEETINGS AND DISCUSSIONS, especially during the Biennale event.In the Central Square it would be also possible to ENJOY A MOVIE OR A DOCUMENTARY (counting a total of 228 seats), thanks to a huge projection panel that can be arranged there, or to ORGANIZE WORKSHOP SESSIONS AND PRESENTATIONS also related to the Biennale by placing tables and chairs in the middle of the area (168 seats). The main Square would be also suitable for SPORT ACTIVITIES OR YOGA SESSIONS, using both the central area and the nearby flight of steps (96 seats). In conclusion, the Square can be adapted to any kind of people’s needs!

The project idea suggests to imagine a new type of place: a COLLECTIVE SPACE. A place deriving from the public space, able to overcome its functional limits, and which MEETS THE NEEDS AND EXPECTATIONS that people have during their free time. In an ERA OF ADVANCING ISOLATION, where people are more and more gripped by work, by school, by everyday commitments, and where new high-performance technologies are FORCING HUMAN BEINGS TO PROGRESSIVE INDIVIDUALISM, we tend to spend our free time alone, and frequently at home. This is the reason why we need more Collective Spaces, that not only lead people to go out, leaving their homes, but let them to spend time with others, increasingly sharing experiences and emotions. We defined the Collective Space through the Urban Machine which therefore stands as a place of contrast to the loneliness that is nowadays contaminating people’s lives. The URBAN PLANNING has always been clearly a TOOL OF BUILDING SOCIALITY AND CIVIC ENGAGEMENT, giving to the Collective Spaces the task of attracting visitors and promoting their socialization. The presence of INSPIRING ACTIVITIES, EXCITING HETEROGENEOUS FUNCTIONS, harmoniously placed in a welldesigned space, ENCOURAGES PEOPLE TO BE MORE OPEN TOWARDS OTHERS, GROWING THEIR CITIZENSHIP, and IMPROVING THEIR PERSONAL SENSE OF BELONGING to the place itself. As Carr, Francis, Rivlin and Stone (in Public Space, 1993) claim, «in a well-designed and well-managed public space, the armor of daily life can be partially removed, allowing us to see others as whole people. Seeing people different from oneself responding to the same setting in similar ways creates a temporary bond». This is the ultimate goal of the Collective Space, aiming to enforce the bonds and relationships among human beings giving the way to a profund and shared sense of Community.

STUDIO TA.R.I-Architects