Seoul is changing and it wants the rest of the world to notice. In 2010 it is set to become the World Design Capital and Prada has chosen Seoul to house the Prada Transformer, an extraordinary structure for art, cinema and fashion events, designed by Rem Koolhaas and AMO (the think tank for the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA)), to open in the spring of 2009.
Last weekend saw the kick-off of the first ever Seoul Design Olympiad (SDO) an annual three-week event that aims not only to promote Seoul as a design capital, but to encourage and celebrate the integration of design into the everyday lives of citizens of the city.
Conferences hosted speakers that included Patrik Schumacher (who along with Zaha Hadid is building the Dongdaemoon Design Plaza and Park), Daniel Libeskind (with a giant mixed-use project underway in Pusan, Korea's second city and Yves Béhar (who told us he visits Seoul around four times a year).
The SDO, held at the Jamsil Olympic Stadium, was packed full of exhibitions from the high and mighty like Zaha Hadid and Patrik Schumacher, local design firms like Young-Se Kim's Inno Design, through to the Seoul Young Designers' Mart with work for sale (a great place to stop for cool souvenirs) and degree shows from the major Korean design schools. It was also a chance for the locals (or citizens as they are referred to) to view the numerous up-and-coming projects in the city, many of which were for public or green spaces and aimed at improving the city.
Also on show were two major design competitions, Beautiful Bench, that showed public seating produced by the city and designed by the locals and the Seoul Design Competition, which had an impressive selection of ideas around the theme of Design is Air, sustainable city life of the future.