Monday, June 21, 2004

Slowness

Transcribed below is an opinion piece by Nahm Yoon-ho, deputy city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo, taken from the JoongAng Daily Opinion, with links and images added by yours truly. Having worked on a fair number of Korean projects, I can't help but sympathize with the author.
The Value of Slow Architecture

"Slow food" is the opposite of fast food. The movement was born in Italy two decades ago to protect traditional cuisine from the global dominance of McDonald's. The adjective "slow" has been popping up in many other fields.

Fish Head

One of the most interesting concepts is "slow architecture." It is a creation of the Japanese, who are known for coining new words.

Slow architecture refers to the process of building structures gradually, taking not only function but other factors into account. The resulting buildings are not just aimed at economic efficiency but value cultural and historical characteristics as well. The architects and designers use unique and natural materials if possible to minimize an artificial feeling and to be assimilated by the local culture.

Thermal Bath, Vals Thermal Bath, Vals

Acclaimed Swiss architect Peter Zumthor is famous for "slowly" building structures with stone and wood in the mountains of Switzerland. His masterpiece, the Thermal Baths at Vals, a spa resort facility, took six years to complete and is considered to be perfectly harmonized with the surrounding environment.

Gaudi's Sagrada Familia

Spanish master Antonio Gaudi's Sagrada Familia is a model of slow architecture. The construction has been in progress for over 120 years since Gaudi first designed the cathedral in Barcelona. The progress is slow, but Sagrada Familia has already become a heritage of Spain.

Japan is among the leaders in slow architecture. Daikanyama, one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Tokyo, is home to Hillside Terrace, an internationally famous residential-commercial complex.

Hillside Terrace

Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki devoted over three decades to meticulously planning the building. Hillside Terrace was awarded the "Prince of Wales Prize in Urban Design" for reflecting the changes of time and giving life to the urban scenery.

The slow architecture buildings have established themselves as culturally symbolic spaces for each region. Not only experts and critics, but also local residents, appreciate their importance.

Koreans have yet to learn the meaning of slow architecture. We might have decided on the capital relocation just as we choose a meal at a fast food chain. Policymakers have moved so quickly that the composure and planning of a slow architect seem to be the last thing in their minds. What makes them so impatient when moving a capital should be meticulously planned?

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