Speaking of the South as it relates to Korea, I have been working on examining the transformation of social space in the South by Mexican migration to the region. Accordingly, for awhile I have been reading various theoretical stuff on social space, visual style, and the like. Some of this stuff is great, some of it is interesting, some of it is insane. Now I have moved onto some urban studies as well.

One book I have found interesting recently is Mutations, which comes from the Harvard Design School's Project on the City.

The book has perhaps the most annoying visual design of any book I have ever read, at times rendering it closer to a stoner 'zine than to a book by a bunch of heavy hitters like Rem Koolhaas. But the ideas are there, no doubt...

One review of the book in archINFORM correctly noted : "If you like that sort of deconstructivist yammering, great; if not, the major small-type essays are best sampled (or, better, skimmed) one at a time, interspersed with the many other more accessible elements of the book that truly do add up to a vivid and fascinating mosaic of postmodern urbanism."

I have found the book interesting especially living in Seoul, which is definitely a prime example of many of the transformations they detail.

Indeed, Korea is singled out as the premier urban nation, as in 40 years in switched from 80% rural to 80% urban.

The one chapter I found especially suitable for Seoul (and I haven't read the whole book yet, yammering not being my cup of tea, believe it or not) is the chapter on "shopping" by Tae-Wook Cha et al.. To read it, you must first leave aside the adage of my old friend Van Mobley: "Abstractions do no do actions."

Shopping is arguable the last remaining form of public activity. Through a battery of increasingly predatory forms, shopping has been able to colonize -- even replace-- almost every aspect of urban life.

The central examples they give of the way commercial space has consumed public space and even replaced it, are quite interesting (interesting factoid: museum store space up 29% vs. gallery space up 3%, for example).

In Seoul, the sheer density of everything, combined with the placement of the shops is something to be marveled at. In central Seoul, the very dense city streets crammed with stores and shops, restaurants going up several floors, and people are mirrored below ground in enormous underground malls that stretch for dozens of blocks. The subway stations seamlessly flow into these underground malls --are connected by them in fact, and a critical spots the stations themselves are colonized by large stores which open directly into them and put their wares in the station.

I've been noticing these things but not really organizing my thinking on them, so I am glad to have started reading through these essays for some new insights. I'll post some pictures so you can see what I'm talking about.


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