Asking about the past, present, and future of cities. [2023 Seoul Design International Forum, Humanising Cities:Human•Design•City] Inside the lively scene!

Asking about the past, present, and future of cities. [2023 Seoul Design International Forum, Humanising Cities:Human•Design•City] Inside the lively scene! 

Hello! I am Miyeon Kim, a supporter of the 2023 Seoul Design International Forum.

Do you know about Seoul Design ( and the Seoul Design International Forum?

Seoul Design is a vision for Seoul that responds to the challenges facing the community due to various global issues, enhances the competitiveness of the city, and allows everyone to live a happy life.

Seoul Design also aims to:

- Develop creative and sustainable design solutions to solve the various problems that people face in their daily lives, creating a safe, convenient, and sustainable urban environment.

- Lead the world's cities through design that reflects innovative technologies and the city's unique characteristics.

- Increase the number of distinctive design contents in everyday life, satisfying the emotions of citizens and providing impressive experiences to drive the city's attractiveness.

- Be a design community in which many people, including experts, industry, and citizens, participate and discuss together.

Last year, the 2022 Seoul Design International Forum was held under the theme of "How Design Enrichs the Future." This year, it was held under the theme of "Humanising Cities:Human•Design•City" Under the vision of a human-centered city, we looked back on how Seoul was illuminated and shared our opinions to increase the competitiveness of the city.

The Seoul Design International Forum, which is held every year based on the Seoul design I introduced earlier! It was held face-to-face for the first time in four years since COVID-19, with expert speakers from all over the world, and we vividly captured the scene!


On September 14, 2023, the opening ceremony was held after the participants took their seats in the multipurpose hall on the 8th floor of Seoul City Hall. The session began after a group photo of the speakers was taken.


In the keynote session, the first speaker, architect Thomas Heatherwick, shared his strategies and experiences on the importance of cities as spaces for people and the importance of architecture that reflects emotions, with the theme of "What we want in cities."

In particular, I remember what you said at the beginning of your speech. He said that if someone who lived in the Victorian era were to fall into our modern age, they would be amazed by our technology, but when they saw our buildings, they would be shocked and say, "Why are the buildings like this?". 

In fact, our buildings are only focused on the interior, and the exterior is a simple and boring shape. The fact that this appearance has a negative impact on people's mental health is also surprising.


Afterwards, the designs of Heatherwick, who took into account the exterior of the building, came across as if they were showing the future of our architectural design, with curved and shaped lines that represent nature.


The first session, "The City of Today," was followed by the sub-theme of "Inclusive Cities through Practical Solutions of Design." Under this theme, architect Shigeru Ban presented a balance between humanitarian activities and architectural activities.

The presentation was divided into three main topics: the potential research of paper tubes as structures, architecture and design, and humanitarian activities. In particular, the story that he was able to obtain government approval only after building his own villa by himself in order to obtain permission to build a building with an unfamiliar material called paper tubes was impressive.  


- The appearance of the villa designed and built by himself using paper tubes

I think it was because I was impressed by the architect's design, which starts with thinking about the material, as well as discovering a natural and safe material.


He is also doing humanitarian activities using architecture, which is in line with the theme of balance between humanitarian activities and architectural activities. I could not help but admire the way he is doing humanitarian activities with excellent buildings that are suitable for the conditions, making me ashamed of myself for thinking that architecture and humanitarian activities are a distant story.


Afterwards, Sohyun Choi, head of design and marketing at Naver, gave a presentation. She talked about the role that design plays in creating the same user experience in the era of rapidly changing technology, using Naver's space and architectural cases.


The NAVER1784 building case was impressive. Robots and humans coexist, robots help humans, and the system is integrated into the Ark, creating a perfect cloud system and environment. It felt like I was taking a glimpse into the future city. 


The last speaker of the first session was Dalwoo Lee, the CEO of Maeum Studio.

He talked about the theme of inclusive cities for the practical solutions of design, and how we can make our cities more inclusive by implementing ideas that create a warm world in an era of rapidly declining population and the construction of one's own world. He used seven keywords: love, memory, joy, respect, imagination, value, and nature.

The theme of "Memory 2" that he worked on with the Hanwha Group was particularly impressive. The "blossom mat" was an idea that was both practical and heartwarming, inspired by the fact that children in orphanages cannot have their own play space due to their environmental characteristics.


I thought that if there were more cases like Maumsudeul Studio, where design that conveys emotions and the implementation of those ideas become more common, cities could become a little warmer.



The second session was "The Future of Cities."

The speaker was Choi In-gyu, Seoul's design policy director and professor at Inha University. 


He introduced Seoul's "Design Seoul 2.0 Project" to create a "vibrant and energetic city." The project is a comprehensive plan to make Seoul a global city with vitality and charm. It aims to create a city that is enjoyable for global citizens, a city where citizens' creativity is realized, a city that is faithful to global standards and reveals Seoul's identity. The speaker introduced the specific projects underway under the five principles of "empathy, inclusion, contribution, recovery, and sustainable design."


The next presentation was by Meejin Yoon, Dean of the College of Architecture and Art Design Cornell University. It was personally one of the most memorable presentations for me.

Meejin Yoon, who has been designing with the idea that "public space is not a given condition, but rather should be actively created, designed, and constructed. How we design public space can change how we define ourselves as members of a collective society, how we form common values and common foundations, and how the concept of 'public' is constructed. In other words, design for public space is also designing the public through that space." The most memorable of Meejin Yoon's public buildings, which have been designed with this idea, is the Memorial Space for the History of the University of Virginia.


In 1817-1865, it was revealed that about 4,000 slaves were mobilized in the process of establishing the University of Virginia. A committee of historians and others was formed to commemorate them.

They wanted to create an open memorial space, not a closed one. The result was the following.


The most impressive thing was that the traces of anonymous people were marked with lines.

It is impressive that they can be added at any time if their family or name is revealed later,


and that their wounds are represented as if blood is flowing when it rains. Meejin Yoon's lecture, which ended with the remark that "we can only reach 100% of our humanity when we work together without taking away anyone's rights," was a presentation that made me think a lot."

The presentations by the speakers were concluded, and then a discussion was held.


Professor Yoon Hye-gyung, the moderator, asked for design solutions and strategies for achieving global growth as a city for the vulnerable and a charming special city, which is the policy goal of the Seoul Metropolitan Government. She also expressed the hope that the insights and implications of the answers would provide direction for the implementation of Seoul Design 2.0.

It was impressive to see the speakers evaluate Seoul design and present the future direction without showing any signs of fatigue after running for 5 hours without a break!

In fact, the term "public design" can be difficult to define and may sound confusing.

Before attending the forum, I was also worried that the presentations by the great speakers would be too difficult for me to understand. But after attending in person, I was able to conclude that anyone with an interest in design, our city, and architecture can understand them.

The Seoul Design International Forum is an open forum that is open to not only professionals and students in related fields, but also to the general public. If offline participation is difficult, there is also a live YouTube live streaming, and this year, a week of forum replay is also being held in response to many requests.

The Seoul Design International Forum is a forum where you can get insights by listening to presentations by architects and designers from all over the world in one place, and you can also think about the present and future of our city, Seoul. I think it has become a forum that I definitely want to attend not only this year's 2023 Seoul Design International Forum, but also next year and the year after.


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