Seoul Universal Design 100

The 2015 Universal Design International Seminar has obtained written consent from the speaker to publish the summarized and edited content

SPEAKER: SIM Dongsub (Director of Design Policy Division, Seoul Metropolitan Government)


The concept of urban design that we share today can be found at the beginning of the Joseon Dynasty when Great Monk Muhak planned the city by applying the philosophy of Yin and Yang Five Phases at the time, while looking at Hanyang Land with Lee Seong-gye. The traces of urban design that began in this way entered modern times and established an image of a city that combines the past and the present, and we can see traces of this urban design in old palaces, and walls throughout the city.
These days, the urban landscape around us remains in the past only, or there are misleading examples of creating a desolate forest of buildings without harmonizing with nature in a biased appearance with only modern beauty. As a city is a place where various people live together, the design should also be created by various people. The most important thing here is the citizens, the actual 'users' of the city. Changes in urban design can begin with the question "How did you consider city users?"

Does everyone feel the same way about the city?

There is another question that needs to be answered before the question of how urban design considers people: Does everyone feel the same way about the city? Some people have to walk up and down the stairs with strollers or heavy luggage, and buses that are easily used by ordinary citizens can be difficult for wheelchairs users. And, these types of inconveniences can occur at home just as often. Since our feelings about the city can vary depending on whether the users are children, pregnant women, disabled people, and the elderly, the city only begins to change when the design is done in a way to minimize the discomfort of each user.

Ronald Mace, the first to advocate universal design, said, "Designers in our society think that everyone meets the terms of 'normal'. "Normal" means perfect, capable of doing something, proficient, and independent, but all of this is not true," he said, and “Why do we design and think that everyone is the same?” He urged a change in the concept of the user, and stated that the spirit of universal design is to design for people and cities with a broader view of users.

"Universal design adds humanism to the city."

Following in this spirit, the Seoul Design Policy Department redefined users, and planned related policies based on the proposition that "Universal Design adds humanism to the city" and in the spirit of civility in Korea.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government began applying universal design to its policies in 2010. Since the main facilities targeted were welfare facilities, 24 types of welfare facility design guidelines were developed and consulting was conducted on the subject of the development. The results of the consulting were shared through international seminars and exhibitions. Universal Design Creativity and Humanism Education were provided to the growing generation, and the application of universal design of public spaces was expanded into the spatial area. It is continuously promoting universal design by producing promotional videos.

Design guidelines for each type of welfare facility

The Seoul Metropolitan Government started with the welfare sector, where the application of universal design is most urgent, and in 2010, developed design solutions centered on daycare centers. In 2011, the development of universal design solutions focused on facilities for the elderly, such as multi-purpose spaces considering the activities of wheelchair users, and windows that fit the view above the bed. In 2012, a range of public spaces and floor-by-floor information signs were included in the universal design category to help communicate with the disabled and the homeless. In 2013, we developed new guidelines for elevator space that is suited to the eye-level of children and for providing a comfortable, home-like atmosphere to women's and child protection facilities. By expanding the target audience to include children, the elderly, the homeless and the disabled, and women, it was intended to improve their quality of life through welfare and design.

32 Institutions for Universal Design of Welfare Facilities

Since 2010, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has been conducting planning and designing and consulting on 32 institutions, including Banpo Daycare Center, Myeonmok Senior Welfare Center and Mapo Senior Welfare Center. In this space, for those who are unfamiliar with the design field or do not have time, experts are conducting field-oriented consulting to directly visit, experience, and then develop solutions. A total of 32 institutions are carrying out the process of refurbishing facility functions by respecting users' needs and emotions as much as possible.

7 items applied to universal design in public spaces

As a pilot project in 2015, the city of Seoul implemented the Universal Design Project at Tapgol Park in Jongno, where the elderly gather the most. Users and experts toured the site together to discover, define, and measure any problems. The seven items derived from this process are called 'Rakhee Street', which combines the words to be happy (樂) and joy (嬉). It consists of signage for the elderly and a simple manual for immediate recognition of the movement, a multi-purpose toilet that can be used comfortably, and a cardiac emergency department that can help in emergency situations.

Universal Design Creativity and Humanism Education for 25 Schools

In order to increase children's understanding of universal design, a class was held to create the universal design needed by users creatively after experiencing the user's point of view. In the three-hour class, the children became universal designers and completed products that realized their ideas; a spray-type toothpaste based on the fact that older people find it difficult to use toothpaste to the end of the tube, a jump-rope inspired by the shape of a tape measure that stretches and shrinks, and magnetic shoelaces that prevent shoelaces from becoming frequently untied.

The class is used as a program to strengthen children's character, develop creativity, and create the right values for design through understanding, experience, and practice. In addition, students' willingness to re-participate in education showed high satisfaction (a rate of 88.5 percent), and teachers also expressed their willingness to re-participate (at a rate of 100 percent), suggesting that this universal design education could be part of the future for both students and teachers.

Universal Design Seoul Future Strategy; Seoul City's Future Vision for a Better Life

Future trends of the Universal Design City of Seoul and the vision of Seoul for a better life were derived from the keywords of coexistence and empathy, and lead use to embrace the needs and concerns of the socially disadvantaged, energy technology convergence and a nature-friendly theme, 'customization' for single-person households, senior social participation and community.

As a result, the Seoul Metropolitan Government is pushing for the Universal Design Seoul Master Plan. First, it aims to establish a comprehensive plan for universal design and establish an institutional foundation to help develop the industry and system of universal design. Currently, in the short term, we are conducting a fact-finding survey and establishing individual project plans. We are planning to establish a long-term comprehensive plan for universal design. It sets long-term goals to develop industries related to universal design, such as holding design fairs or giving awards, supporting the production of universal design products, or training experts through universal design education. The Seoul Metropolitan Government wants to create a comfortable urban space for anyone along with universal design in the future.
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