Tuesday, 9 December 2008

living+library - precedent - paju book city

Bookcity is located in the Paju area, viewed as the "land of promise". Located just 30 kilometers from Seoul, it is a publishing cultural community conveniently located near the Jayu highway. From the beginning, the Bookcity project was planned and established as an industrial city related specifically to books. It is intended as a place devoted to planning, producing and distributing books by well-intentioned publishers. Frequently asked questions while initiating the Bookcity project was why and for what purpose the city was being planned and built? Our answer is simple and clear: the city aims to recover the lost humanity. As such, Bookcity must be a space built for human being. Cities and its architecture are often called "mirrors of the era". This may refer to how cities and buildings reflect the lives of mankind, especially that of urban life in its edgiest form. It is a direct reflection of our distorted lives: a mixture of chaotic urban planning, unbalanced infrastructure, unsightly buildings, and confusing signs. It is apparent not only in Seoul but in any city. Such distorted urban scenes negatively impact our already arduous lives, creating a vicious circle where our environment exacerbates us endlessly. Why was such an urban setting created? Why and when did such unwholesome architecture and urban planning come to surround us? We offer this answer to that question: it is due to the loss of a sense of community! It was a result of individuals pursuing their own personal desires, neglecting or becoming disinterested in creating common ground. The loss of community and resulting distorted lives are inherently related to Korea's modern, contemporary history which is scattered with traces of shackles. Thirty-six years of Japanese colonial rule, followed by a chaotic liberation period, the Korean War fought between kin, and an indiscriminate influx of Western culture upon a Korean society made stagnant by authoritarian rule since the founding of the state until the 1980's in the economic order of the world's soaring industrialization: all these contributed to bringing intense psychological confusion and disorder to the people's sense of values. We have arrived at a stage today where life in urban to rural areas is extremely distorted.

Community in Practice

It is now time not merely to lament over the situation, but to find new alternative solutions. Would it be an overstatement to suggest that we have attempted to find realistic alternatives in the form of Bookcity? We hope not. As individuals devoted to publishing, we continuously seek to recover common values while planning such a project. In the midst of pursuing common values, we aim to provide a space that, simply, makes good books. In order to make this possible, we seek to recreate community compacts (HyangYak), pursued by Korea's forefathers, in forms appropriate for today. The Bookcity project places the utmost value in this "Community in Practice". This is based on the very simple principle of controlling personal, selfish desires in favor of considering common interests first. Since professional research, outlook and wisdom are necessary in determining what is the most valuable and useful for the whole; we have attempted to solve these problems by selecting people of outstanding qualities. This was, of course, the most appropriate approach.

Amalgamation of Publishing and Architecture

In planning and pursuing Bookcity, we continue to keep in mind the principles of book making that we use everyday. Book making is similar to architecture in that it takes pains to design and if the design is not satisfactory, one begins again from scratch. Even in terms of design, just as a quality architectural design fully considers and researches the environment and climate of the structural site, personality, occupation and number of people who are to occupy the space, as well as the necessary building materials, book making has similar considerations. When the painstaking design process is over, the difficult construction phase of book making, where the material is procured and the building is raised according to the blueprint, begins. However, book making at times requires just as much, if not more, expertise and time than building structures. Book making is indeed very similar to the process of erecting buildings. The spirit of book making is instilled in the foundation for planning and pursuing Bookcity, which is an amalgamation of publishing and architecture.

A Huge and Beautiful Book called Bookcity

We acquired a huge government project called "national industrialization development" in order to make a publishing community. Since it was important to attract the consideration of government policies, the project was recognized as a national industrialization development so that it could be realized after publishing receives recognition as a national strategic industry. However, we have attempted to overcome the uninspiring characteristics of an "industrialization development" by incorporating the dynamic characteristics of a "city". This is no different if we were editing a huge and beautiful book called "Bookcity" on a wide expanse of land. Urban design was undertaken by a team headed by Dr. Hwang Ki-Won of Seoul National University's Graduate School of Environmental Studies. As the city would be newly establishing an entire industrial system for planning, producing and distributing books to readers, we asked Professor Hwang's team to devise industrial plans after collecting and systematically dividing and analyzing general data about the publishing industry. This was a difficult task since information about the publishing industry was vastly inferior to the quantitative growth of publishing, making data collection and planning that much more difficult.

A Great Contract

As mentioned before, urban design was important in order to overcome the uninspiring and dull impression of an industrial development. In order to meet the demands of the next stage of construction, two outstanding architects of our time, Min Hyun-Shik and Seung H-Sang were selected as architectural coordinators. The two architects will work in conjunction with British architect Florian Beigel of the University of North London and two other architects, Kim Jong-Kyu and Kim Young-Joon, in preparing an Architectural Guideline for Bookcity.All architectural renderings must follow this Guideline and a group of architects who will follow it faithfully were organized. A list of 30 prominent architects from Korea and 10 architects from various countries was formed. An elaborate planning for constructing the city was planned and undertaken, including dividing the city into sectors and appointing sector architects. It also was not an easy task to persuade tenants not accustomed to such a process to follow the plans. Through this process "a great contract" was established between the tenants and the architects. It promises to suppress subjective architectural ideas and for architects to do their best to successfully build a city that harmonizes healthy publishing and architectural cultures. This contract has become a standard in all architectural activities within Bookcity and through this great contract the city's objectives are being realized one by one.

A Blossoming of a True Book Culture

Correcting the picture stained and distorted by history is not easy, but we expect this city to aid Korean society's expansion and reproduction by making a new milestone in Korea's desolate urban culture. Witness a new ideal in urban culture. It is our hope that such a specialized city will serve as a model in boosting Korea's general development of industrial structures. The bronze figure of the patriot Ahn Jung-Geun that stands in the heart of the city, the Asia Publication-Culture and Information Center, looks toward continued success of all our plans.


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