Let There Be Motorways

Whereas many cities and countries are formed out of a historically layered architecture, in Korea such “layerdness” is very scarce. And whereas in most countries both individual and national identity lean heavily on these built historical reference points, in Korea the uniting force seems to be a constant strive for Progress – a national project initiated in the mid 20th century rather than the country´s 5000 year old history.

Assuming this admittedly speculative hypothesis as our starting point, some basic questions inevitably present themselves. Can progress be a national project? How, by whom, and for whom, is such an agenda designed? How is it endorsed? And ultimately, where does the individual fit in?

In search of answers we turn our attention to the built environment, as we believe that the nature of this national project is best shown within the peculiar aesthetic and unique value structure of Korean housing. Not much investigation is needed to find out that the Korean housing-landscape is controlled by a handful of big corporations – the same ones that drive the bulk of the country´s economy and politics.

Observed from a distant and critical standpoint, the housing-landscape resembles the result of a mass-producing industry more than built homes. Moreover, the buildings, especially the apartment blocks, are produced without intentions of having a lifespan of more than some decades. This constant renewal would fit perfectly in to a slogan of Progress. However, the all too harmonious relationship between industry and an ever-present promotion of progress cannot go unnoticed. The irony of the “because you´re worth it” or “You are where you live” marketing of individualism for the purpose of an economical oligopoly stares you straight in the eyes.

In this project we try to map the visual rhetoric used to promote and maintain an intricate structure of this privately run national project. Through documenting, mimicking and rearranging this imagery we hope to shake the foundations of the arguments used in this process. Our approach is at the same time both personal-emotional and critical-analytical. What interests us, ultimately, is how we build our lives within these serially produced promises of individuality.