Uncertain Identity

The fourth Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism was the first run by a Korean director alone—architect Byoung Soo Cho—after several editions with foreign partners. The title of this year’s show was “Land Architecture, Land Urbanism: City of Mountain Ranges, Waterways, and Wind Breezes—Drawing of Seoul’s Next 100 Years.” Staging an on-site project at Songhyun Green Plaza as one of six dispersed exhibitions was a wise choice. The park at the heart of Seoul had a dynamic history over the last hundred years—owned by colonial Japan, through the US army’s ownership and large companies in Korea, then finally to the city of Seoul, which returned it to the public last year. With full seasonal blooms, it was a pure pleasure to explore the forgotten “land,” a place to breathe, amid the busyness of the metropolitan city. The pavilions built for this biennale added more spectacle to the park. Observing the visitors, the power of engaging with memories of the city and place was convincing and delightful, and the beauty of the land the city of Seoul occupies could be felt and acknowledged.

But stepping out from the park, awakened from the daydream, the questions arose: It was worth highlighting the importance of land, but had it ever been denied in the first place? What is the Seoul Biennale’s overarching attitude and statement toward “architecture and urbanism” beyond the appreciation of land? What can we take home from the artful installations at the park? In comparison, what do we want from the enormous number of futuristic sub-proposals, research, and data for Seoul at other exhibition venues? I hoped to see land architecture and land urbanism as action, not contemplation. Some foreign and out-of-date projects such as the Norwegian Opera House and Ballet, Nanjing Sifang Art Museum, and Metropol Parasol caused even more confusion. Between building and architecture, between local and global, between land and biennale, the question of the identity of Seoul Biennale itself remains. As the Songhyun Green Plaza is about to shed its ephemerality with another architectural project after two years of temporarily opening as a park, this biennale also waits to settle in.



Land Architecture, Land Urbanism: City of Mountain Ranges, Waterways, and Wind Breezes—Drawing of Seoul’s Next 100 Years, 4th Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism, Seoul

South Korea


curated by Byoung Soo Cho