12 October 2008

Seoul: Design Olympiad

It's already almost noon on Monday, October 13th.

Yesterday was spent over in Jamsil, at the Olympic Stadium, where the 2008 Seoul Design Olympiad is being held. According to the city, this commemorates the designation of Seoul as the 2010 World Design Capital. It also commemorates the 30th anniversary of the "Miracle on Han River," the 20th anniversary of the 1988 Summer Olympics, and the 10th anniversary of South Korea's reign as a leader in information technology.

I have more photos over at Christy's Art Blog.

I have arrived at the Olympic Stadium. I must say that compared to the newer facilities such as the World Cup Stadium, this stadium, dating back to 1984 when South Korea was still a so-so Third World country, feels rather primitive. There is not a single elevator anywhere in this giant 100,000-seat facility.

The twenty painted hearts from Namsan have been relocated here, for the Design Olympiad. Glad to see them again.

The blue stuffed animal is the mascot of the Design Olympiad.

Kia Motors had a display outside, featuring its newest car, the Soul. In the South Korean domestic market, it comes in two trim levels - 2U and 4U - and offers 1.6L and 2.0L gasoline engines and a 1.6L diesel engine. It's not all that state-of-the-art though, as the automatic transmission is only 4-speed, and the base model (including this example) has drum brakes in the rear. I forgot to ask when the Soul will be available in the US; I hope it comes with four disc brakes and 5-speed automatic standard.

The dashboard of the Soul. It is very modern and practical, just like any other Japanese and Korean car these days. The rest of the interior also emphasizes versatility, due to the car's tall, boxy wagon shape.

Fuel economy is rated at about 14 kilometers per liter, or in the low thirties if converted to miles per gallon. Unlike other metric countries which use liters per 100 kilometers, South Korea uses kilometers per liter, because its fuel economy test is identical to the older US EPA test, modeling the driving conditions of 1970s Los Angeles; as a result, numbers can be way too optimistic.

This plaque, installed in 1998, commemorates the tenth anniversary of the 1988 Olympics held here. Good timing, as South Korea was in the doldrums at that time, trying to recover from the near-bankruptcy of the national economy. It's been ten more years since, and the economy is now under threat again, from the US economic collapse and a new conservative government that has learned nothing from the American mistakes.

This monument records the names and the nationalities of all the medal winners of the 1988 Olympic Games.

A close-up of the stadium shows plastic discards covering the walls. Well over a million objects were used to cover the entire stadium, and to form the "world's largest plastic stadium." Some stats are as follows, according to a sign at the entrance:
  • 1,763,360 objects
  • 75,680 kilograms of total weight
  • 3,638 workers needed to install
  • 488 trucks involved
  • 40 days of installation
  • 4 elements: fire, water, air, earth

Today, this is another monument to mark the Design Olympiad. Twenty years ago, the Olympic Flame burned here. The designers of the stadium somehow omitted provisions for the all-important Olympic Flame, and this contraption had to be built as an add-on. It was lit by three torch runners standing on the bottom platform, which would then lift them to the top.

Seoul's opening ceremony used live pigeons to symbolize world peace, as was the longstanding tradition at the time. But the lighting of the flame burned a number of pigeons alive; afterwards, live pigeons were never used again. Seoul's opening ceremony was also the last daytime ceremony; future Olympic Games moved the opening ceremony to nighttime, to escape the summer heat.

Here, I can test a perfume, named Incense of Seoul: Pine Tree of Namsan, made by a local cosmetics company named Amore-Pacific. The Pine Tree of Namsan is a popular theme, even echoed in the second verse of the national anthem.

Autodesk, the publisher of AutoCAD and other computer design software (including those for making games!), also has this kiosk on the running tracks.

A look at the stadium's electronic display, which is showing the visitors' images as they walk on the running tracks.

This inflatable tunnel, a conference room, stretches the entire length of the 100-meter sprint. I was not allowed in.

A local firm, Innodesign, which developed the popular iRiver MP3 player, also has this kiosk here, next to Autodesk. These iMacs are showing the achievements of the company. There were many interesting things here, including black coatdresses designed by the firm (and worn by the attendants), but I didn't get to photograph them.

The Design Olympiad also included a Design Competition, which featured entrants from throughout South Korea and around the world. This line, forming at the 100-meter sprint start line, is to enter the Design Competition tent.

One thing that frustrates me about life in South Korea is the people's inability to stay in line. Back in the US, and everywhere else, if I take my place in line, I will easily hold it. But here, people will keep barging past me just to get a few positions ahead. I really have to make an effort to hold my position in line (and hopefully barge a few positions ahead myself). This is so bad that about 15-20 years ago, a Northwest Airlines commercial said "Koreans never queue for anything" as it described the various Asian destinations served by the airline. The same logic also applies to driving (it also really helps to drive something expensive and big).

The gateway toward the right rear was used twenty years ago by the world's athletes to enter the stadium for the opening ceremony. Behind it lies the practice field, the staging area back then, and a children's playground for the Design Olympiad.

The competition was themed after the four ancient elements of fire, water, air, and earth. This earth-themed South Korean entry proposes a new recycling-themed park for Nanjido, which was Seoul's landfill for two decades, and is now part of World Cup Park. Many Seoul residents still associate Nanjido with trash, so a recycling-themed park would be very approproate there.

This water-themed South Korean entry is a redesign of Seoul's subway map. The map used to be simple enough with the long Line 1 and the circular Line 2, and even with the X-shape of Lines 3 and 4 added, it was still quite legible. But the addition of Lines 5-8 and suburban lines really cluttered things up. This is an artistic attempt to make the map legible once again, and to accommodate the addition of even more future lines. It also shows the flow of the Han River as a geographical reference, something that reminds me of the London Tube map and its depiction of the Thames; current Seoul subway maps do not show the river.

Other water-themed entries included something similar, such as the re-design of bus linemaps to be in context with the city's geography.

This air-themed entry, also from South Korea, shows a possible redesign of a construction zone barrier. Current barriers are a mere straight sheetmetal wall, put up for safety and property protection, and little more. This adds curves and some growing plants for aesthetics and better air quality.

This fire-themed South Korean entry showcases an eco-friendly military uniform.

Another fire-themed South Korean entry. It asks people to stop hoarding small coins, and instead use them for charity or other purposes. The 10-won coin (USD $0.01) costs well over 10 won to make, and if people don't circulate them, the government has to spend even more money minting more coins, representing a waste of the nation's resources. The brass 10-won coin cost so much to make that the coin had to be redesigned into a smaller copper model, looking pretty similar to the pennies of US, Canada, and UK, but it still costs more than it's worth.

University of Daegu had a fashion show, as evidenced here. I love the middle outfit, a variation on my favorite Ally McLesbian miniskirt suit.

This is a flight simulator, powered by Sony PlayStation 3 using a generic single-engine propeller airplane (though capable of jet airliner speeds), allowing me to fly over the beautified Seoul circa 2030. This is part of the city's own exhibit showcasing its plans for beautifying the Han River and many other elements of the city landscape over the next few decades.

This is part of the same city exhibit. This is the park that will occupy the site of the now-demolished Dongdaemun Stadium. It includes a section of the old city wall, which had been torn down for the stadium, and whose foundations were recently re-discovered at the site.

The city government will use these two specially designed fonts as part of the beautification project. It will also introduce ten new natural colors, each one symbolizing an aspect of Seoul's history and landscape.

Here's a sign with dueling concepts. A German architect said "Less is more." An American architect rebutted, "Less is a bore."

A look east from the stadium. In front is the natatorium; while distance swimming was done over at Olympic Park, this facility still held the diving competition. This is where Greg Louganis banged his head against the diving board. Unfortunately, the future plans for this park say that this building, and all others at this complex except for the Olympic Stadium and the 1982 baseball park, will be torn down and replaced with something else.

In the back are brand-new highrise apartments, occupying the site of the Jamsil Apartment Complex Phase 1. The last time I was here, three years ago, they were busy finishing up the demolition of the original complex, which consisted of 1960s 5-story buildings with coal-fired heat and no elevators. At least they had running water! Phases 2, 3, and 4 nearby were also similarly demolished and rebuilt, while 1970s-vintage Phase 5, standing 15 stories tall and featuring elevators (and my childhood home), still stands.

A look back into the stadium, from the top level bleachers. Behind the top bleachers are displays from various university art departments throughout South Korea and beyond. Even the University of Louisiana at Lafayette had a kiosk here.

One of the university artworks featured: a Cadillac Secret Romance concept car.

The middle level had various displays from other world cities renowned for their art and design. This pair of flags welcomes me to the Rotterdam-Eindhoven display. The Dutch are very well beloved in South Korea, because Guus Hiddink, a native of Eindhoven, once served as the head coach of South Korea's soccer squad, leading it to the semifinals at the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Older South Koreans also love the Dutch, for their participation in the war, and for being among the first to buy the Hyundai Pony.

Here's the Rotterdam-Eindhoven display showing various Dutch appliances and home goods.

Another participant here was Beijing. Here are five tourist posters. From left to right are the Ming Tombs, the Summer Palace, the Great Wall, the Temple of Heaven, and the Forbidden City. I've been to all five sights. I'd love to go back to Beijing in the future, sooner than later.

These insulated water bottles were the official merchandise of this year's Beijing Olympic Games. Also present here was the official relay torch; Christy's Art Blog has a photo.

After four hours - and circling the huge stadium repeatedly - I decided to call it quits, tired. This is the parting shot, featuring a look at Hodori, the baby tiger who was the mascot of the 1988 Olympics.

But I'm not done. I am at the subway station serving the Olympic Stadium, where the station's operator, Seoul Metro, was running a PR booth, which included this model of a subway train. This is the control car, which is put at each end of the train (currently 10 cars normally). Behind it can be seen a history of Seoul Metro's rolling stock, dating back to the original 1974 Japanese-designed train.

I learned that the law requires rail rolling stock to be retired after 25 years of service. Line 1, opened in 1974, completely replaced its rolling stock in the 1990s. Line 2, dating to 1980-1984, is currently retiring the original trains and replacing them with this new model. The 1985-vintage Line 3 will also start featuring this same new model next year. Line 4, also from 1985, already lost its original rolling stock to increased demands at Lines 2 and 3, gaining new trains in the 1990s. The other lines are run by other operators, not Seoul Metro, and not featured at this display.

The original trains were shorter, 4 to 6 cars, and new cars were built later to be inserted into those trainsets and lengthen the train to 10 cars. Those newer additions are currently being gathered together into their own consists, so that they can continue to run for several years well after the original trains are retired.

This is the power car from the same train as the above. A 10-car train needs five of these. A cutaway shows the interior details, including the new fireproofing features to prevent a repeat of the 2003 Daegu Subway arson tragedy. All trains, new and old, feature the new fireproofing, except trains slated for retirement before 2009.

These new trains use Korean technology, instead of Japanese and British technology of older trains. They use 1,500-volt overhead lines; aside from San Francisco's MUNI and the Busan Subway, I have never been on another subway system using overhead lines (they all use the third rail for power). These trains can run at 100 km/h, though they'll be lucky to hit 40 km/h in normal operation due to frequent stops.

These new trains, nevertheless, are of the same dimensions as the older Japanese trains. All rolling stock on Seoul's subway system are completely interchangeable, regardless of operator or line, though power voltage may differ by line.

These are the new slim turnstiles that will be introduced in Seoul Metro's stations in the future. SMRT, the newer operator running Lines 5-8, already have similar (though slightly fatter) turnstiles in its stations.

I took a short ride to the nearby Lotte World, also in Jamsil, for some brainstorming. This is Lorry, the female mascot of Lotte World's amusement park.

This is her male counterpart, Lotty. I didn't use any of Lotte World's features this time, but will return soon to bowl, to ice skate, to take in a movie, and maybe to even enter the amusement park.

This is a joint poster by the tourism bureaus of South Korea and Japan, to promote exchange of tourists between the two countries. This example is in Japanese, but there are Korean posters too. Lots of Japanese come to South Korea due to the short distance, and lots of South Koreans head over to Japan for the same reasons. (And their languages have near-identical grammars, so learning curve is fairly shallow.) I do have to say that the successive right-wing governments of Japan, including current Prime Minister Taro Aso, have done a great job of offending South Koreans and chilling the relations.

A rack sale at the department store. This is a great opportunity for the budget-minded fashionista, male or female, to pick up the latest trends.