The FAR Game: Constraints Sparking Creativity
Sung Hong KIM, Eungee CINN, Keehyun AHN, Seungbum KIM, Isak CHUNG, Da Eun JEONG, Richard Enos
The team of Korea has defined a very intriguing exhibition, with the constant ‘internal’ battle of the architects at the front line in Seoul. Korean architects may think they have the vision of field generals, but when handling their missions in their capital city, they are often asked to operate more like foot soldiers. The Korean urban architect works under the constant pressure of two opposing forces: huge plot prices and a very strict urban building regulation. This constant battle is referred to as ‘playing the FAR Game’ (yong-jeong-nyul or 용적률 in Korean).
While FAR (Floor Area Ratio) appears to be technical jargon for professionals, almost every Korean either knows what it is, or has heard about it. The word speaks to the hunger for living space in a hyper-dense environment, as well as the desire to satisfy that hunger by any means possible. In Korea, most clients and land owners are paying for the invisible quantity of the building, not the visible quality of the architecture. Buildings themselves are often not valued in the real estate market. The average lifespan of a building is shorter than that of a human being. If a new building can stack that land better, leading to an increase in FAR, then demolition and reconstruction are sought. It is not uncommon to see celebratory banners when a building fails its structural stability test, because it means the demolition will be approved.
How can a Korean architect add aesthetics or socio-cultural considerations into his work? The FAR Game Exhibit at the Korean pavilion will show the evolution since the global economic crisis of 2008, and highlight the best examples of creative responses to the demands of FAR. The team of six curators will not only illustrate the harsh realities facing Korean architecture and cities, but also how the industry is making small changes for a better life, as in the proposal of Alejandro Aravena.
“Before I applied for this curatorship I spoke with a close friend, who encouraged me to go ahead if I could enjoy the process and not get caught up with trying to impress people. This made me think of Paulo Coelho’s modern vanity fair satire ‘The Winner Stands Alone’, set at the Cannes Film Festival. The Venice Biennale itself could be perceived as a vanity fair for closed circles of people increasingly detached from the reality of everyday life. However, I choose to see it as a platform for different perspectives from otherwise unheard voices. I represent my country here not to seek recognition, but to open a discussion with architectural professionals as well as the interested public about why the FAR Game matters in Korea and to architecture in general.”
Sung Hong KIM, curator
Review by The Venice Insider
The Korean pavilion focuses on the architectural concept ‘floor area ratio’ and is one of the more ‘technical’ exhibitions in this Biennale. I don’t have a background in architecture, so I was afraid that it would be rather complicated. The red color of the ‘extended’ floor areas dominates the pavilion and really pulls your attention to the important elements. This makes it easy to grasp the relevant parts and I did spend quite some time reading the graphs and charts. I understand now the challenge which Korean architects have to deal with on a daily basis. The team has done a great job in ‘translating’ and visualizing the technical vocabulary, so it can be understood by a layman. Korea is one of the 12 exhibitions which you should really visit at this Biennale.
Katia – The Venice Insider
Click here to return to the overview of the other pavilions at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016 or read my post What to expect from the 2016 Architecture Biennale.
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