In my encounters with technology, I can think back to a wide array of experiences that I’ve had. Though none of them were quite as unique as the Dongdaemun design plaza. Although I cannot directly and concisely summarize my experience, I would like to discuss and unpack the different pertaining elements of this object. Firstly it may be important to note the sheer scale of this object given its placement. The city of Seoul can feel very crowded in certain areas and the Dongdaemun plaza stands out because of its massive, looming presence over a large amount of land in the center of the city. Before I was able to engage in an analysis of the structure, I found myself wondering what the process of production looked like, how the space was cleared out, and how the materials were brought in and organized for a creation of this scale. At this point, the structure definitely stood out to me as technology, given the amount of time that was seemingly put into its creation. As I neared closer to this object, I noticed that on the outside of the structure there were millions of cavities. In the night, these blank spaces were completely unnoticeable from a distance. However, at certain random moments, they illuminated in a synchronicity creating various movements of light that spanned the length of the structure. Even more interestingly, these panels on the exterior of the structure were able to display images and videos in a similar manner to the way that a normal screen would, only the curvature of the structure seemed to have little effect on the proportions and scale of the media, creating visuals that appeared as though they were being projected. It was unlike any technology that I had seen before, and it stood as a testament to the capability of the human race to produce awe-inspiring feats of design. From the perspective of Heidegger, this structure would serve both as a standing reserve and a revelation. Its quality of standing reserve derives from its ability to inspire. It is a standing reserve of inspiration for whomever so chooses to feel that it is. The residual impact that it holds in the consciousness of the observer is that the “revelation” of the capabilities and lack of limitation in this field are made visible to both the closed-minded structural designers before it and the latest generation of designers who come after it. The concept of enframing is relevant to mention here too, as it is at the root of the problem that it is trying to solve. Oftentimes in the world, we feel that we have concepts that can be accurately applied to the world generally speaking. If an object is described as a “technology” for example there may be certain things that come to mind immediately. The problem that the Dongdaemun design plaza is solving is that of expectation. It is something that is so very different from anything that most people have seen or can expect to see, that an encounter with this structure is something that nears the point of being indescribable with written or spoken language. It solves the problem of expectation in its very existence. Any preconceived notions of the structure, based on description will prove to be inaccurate in the true experience of observing this structure in real life. The existence of something that is not so easily defined by language is an exposè of how we humans are limited in our thinking of what and why something is constructed. The medium that I have chosen for this project is primarily text, which is limiting to a certain degree for the essence of this structure. It is because of this that I have chosen to include pictures of what the structure and surrounding landscape look like. This provides a context to the reader as they are not strictly limited to the mental images that they can procure in their own minds. For this particular analysis, many may feel that what is being described is something that is significant beyond the medium of picture or video, and this assumption would be correct. I must state that no matter the impact of any kind of digital media being presented about this structure, the experience of interacting with this technology is one that is unique to being physically present next to the structure. It is also important to note the impact of the plaza as contemporary technology. In the city of Seoul, there are great juxtapositions in technology that are present throughout the city, and the Dongdaemun design plaza is no exception. It stands in the Eulji-ro district of the city and is accompanied by many other technological marvels nearby. However, it still stands out, due to the complexity of its eye-catching construction and due to the fact that it displays technology that I imagine many people, have never seen. When I first encountered it my first thought was certainly this. This is a significant thought to me, more so than previous generations even. The reason being is that in the modern era oftentimes there is little that is new or exciting to us, we have seen the use of many innovative technologies through widespread information sources such as the internet. That being said, it can be quite a shocking surprise when we encounter them in real life, and even more substantial when we have no context of how or why a certain technology is being used. This was the case as I took in the presence of this structure. From an artistic standpoint, I was thoroughly impressed. It appeared to be such a beautiful and creative feat yet, it was woven right into the middle of the city as if the surrounding buildings and structures were built around it. Furthermore, this structure stood out to me as artistic because of some of the residual effects that it produced. The first was that of the weather, let me elaborate. When I first came across the structure it was raining very heavily, being that it was monsoon season in Korea. I noticed as I approached that the curved design of the structure was creating a wave-like effect as the rain fell onto it, smoothly rolling off of the sides. This was even more mesmerizing from underneath the structure, feeling as though I was in a technological “cave” so to speak. On top of this, my particular favorite part of the artistic experience here was the effect that the inside of the structure had on the audio. This was not readily apparent to me at first of course, until a friend of mine noticed a piano on the inside with a sign on it that I could not read. After taking a few minutes to humor my friend gently tapping single notes and listening to them echo out into the night, we noticed that there was a group watching us. Naturally, my friend got up to allow the others to have a turn. It was then that one young man came over and sat down at the piano. Unbeknownst to me, I was about to experience one of the most magical experiences musically speaking that I had ever heard. He began playing a classical piece (one that I certainly did not recognize) and its sound cascaded through the structure out into the city in a state that was almost cinematic. The interior of the plaza had a way of amplifying the audio so that it seems almost equally as loud as standing next to the piano from forty to fifty yards away. I watched and listened in complete awe hearing how beautifully this music was being produced and reflected. “This was something that was done on purpose,” I thought. The piano was purposefully placed here so that anyone with knowledge of the instrument was able to share the sounds with a very large surrounding area. It was so profound to me, this idea that the designers had utilized technology in such a way that it was used in the furtherance of art and its appreciation. In summation, I have found that I did not consider all of the applications of this technology at first experience. With time to take in the artifact, however, I learned an appreciation for this plaza that many passersby or perhaps even visitors may not have, simply through critical observation, time spent, and sheer luck. It is oftentimes in a contemporary context that we address what a technology is by what its purpose is. Moreover, it is chiefly this “real definition” being used which limits our thinking about such. It is with an open mind and a suspension of disbelief, however, that we are able to grasp the aesthetic value of an object and perhaps some of the more complex thought patterns or uses that went into its creation. In the end, it almost does not matter whether the purpose of the plaza was intended for certain uses or not, rather its importance is in the uses that human beings create therein.
The plaza is not really visible here but the piano piece is heard in the background 🙂