Wednesday, November 2, 2011

KAFF Presentations

By now I had made two presentations, one at Kyung Hee University and the other at Yonsei University, but I still had two more to go. Although the content was to be generally the same, the venue would be the annual KAFF (Korean Architecture Fair & Festival) to be held at the CoEx Convention and Exhibition Center, the largest conference center in Korea. But CoEx is much more than that. It is a business and cultural hub located in Gangnam, Seoul's business district, and includes Asia's largest underground mall, three five-star hotels including the one that I was staying at, two large office towers, the Hyundai Department store, a subway station and more. About 150,000 people visit this complex each day.

 The CoEx Convention and Exhibition Center

The seminars that Ken Klassen and I were to participate in had been approved by KIRA (Korea Institute of Registered Architects) for continuing education credits for its members. In preparation for the Friday seminar, we first met with Mr. Chi Tok Kim, a local architect involved in the organizing of KAFF. He is President of Yooshin Architects & Engineers, a 35 person firm. He was leaving the next morning for Sierra Leone where his firm is designing a new City Hall funded by the Korean Government.

The early afternoon session consisted of my presentation, "Designing Multi-Unit Seniors Housing, Independent Living to Long Term Care, The Canadian Experience" followed by Ken Klassen's presentation, "Designing for Better Occupant Health, Comfort and Energy Efficiency in Seniors Housing." Sequential translation was provided by Julie Kim, a very competent translator from the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.

After our presentations we took a stroll through the Trade Show associated with this event. It was interesting to note the numerous references to LEED, with several local firms offering LEED related services. This confirmed for us that LEED is establishing a foothold in Korea. Other exhibits that I found interesting included the Canada Wood exhibit and the display of a large window cleaning machine that can run up the face of high rise buildings.

 Canada Wood Exhibit, KAFF Trade Show
On Saturday the Canada Wood Korea-FPAC Wood Frame Construction Seminar took place. It was an all afternoon session with an attendance of over 300, the highest number ever for this kind of event. Simultaneous translation was provided. The first presentation, "Using Wood in Green Building Design" was made by Isabelle Des Chenes, Vice-President, Market Relations and Communications, Forest Products Association of Canada. FPAC promotes sustainable forest management practices. It has 22 member companies and is based in Ottawa.

Ken Klassen followed with, "Net Zero Energy in Wood Frame Housing, Canada's EQuilibrium Initiative." I then made my last presentation, "The Design of Multi-Unit Wood Frame Seniors Housing." The final presentation was made by Mr. Jae-Seung Song, Michoo Architects & Planners, a local architect with considerable experience in designing wood frame buildings.

Click to view an article about the green seminar

With that the formal part of my agenda for this trip was completed. I did have the opportunity to see some of the sites of Seoul as well. Friday evening, for example, Mr. JayWan Yu took Glen Webb, Ken Klassen and myself to the Namdaemun Market, the largest outdoor market in Seoul. It was a considerable subway ride from the hotel, which in itself was interesting. The subway system in Seoul is extensive with 12 lines and more under construction. It is the largest one that I have seen. It is well used. The majority of the riders spend their time on their phones, texting, playing games or watching TV. Seoul has the fastest Internet service anywhere. The sights, sounds, and aromas of the market were also fascinating. Mr. Yu (see first blog photo), a local businessman with strong ties to Canada, was very generous with his time, accompanying us throughout the week. He also translated the contents of one of my presentations.

Namdaemun Market

 Making Dim Sum, Namdaemun Market

Kebabs, Namdaemun Market
Ken Klassen with a Green Tea soft ice cream cone

 Glen Webb buying socks
I spent Sunday, my last full day in Seoul, touring the City on my own. Highlights included seeing ChangDeokgung, one of the many large palaces, the Jogyesa Buddhist temple, and Bukchon Hanok Village, a neighborhood of 600 year old Korean wood houses with their decorative exterior walls, sweeping pagoda style roofs, and infloor heating systems (Seoul was almost totally destroyed during the Korean War so there are almost no historic buildings left).

 ChangDeokgung Palace gate

 Jogyesa Temple

 Bukchon Hanok Village
 Bukchon Hanok Village

Dr. Yeunsook Lee, Professor, Housing & Interior Design Dept., Yonsei University and President of KIEAE (Korea Institute of Ecological Architecture and Environment), one of the host organizations of the Fourth Korea-Canada Technical Seminar held at Yonsei University), had invited me to join her for dinner to discuss seniors housing and community development. She described some of the initiatives she is implementing that give people a voice in the development of their own communities. She also questioned whether seniors should be housed in separate buildings. Since she had not been able to attend my presentation on designing for seniors, I described the workshop process that we implement on our projects whereby all stakeholders including members of the community have a say in the design. I also commented on the current thinking in Canada and the US about seniors housing, the Elder-Centric Village concept that I had referred to in my presentation which is to design communities around elders, integrating them into those communities. We agreed to continue this exchange of information and discussed the possibility of future cooperation.

 Cheonggyecheon Stream

 Cheonggyecheon Stream

As we were leaving the restaurant she asked if I had seen the Cheonggyecheon Stream, a creek in the downtown area that was filled in some time ago and has recently been excavated and developed into a beautiful walkway. I had not, and since the starting point of this development was close by I decided to have a look. I was really impressed and ended up following it for an hour or more, admiring the variety of experiences that its design provides, watching the many young people enjoying it (there are a lot of young people in Seoul), and taking photos of some of its features. It is absolutely delightful, something I look forward to sharing with the landscape architects in our office. What a great way to end my visit to Seoul.

- Rudy P. Friesen

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