13 February 2011
by Vicky Richardson
I've come to Seoul, South Korea, to meet with the British Council arts team, and to help plan our design and architecture programme for the coming year. We hope to build on the success of an installation called Happiness for Daily Life, which took place in the city of Gongju, about two hours from Seoul, last year.
My first meeting is with three architects who are part of the curatorial team for the Gwangju Biennale. Here's a picture of our group, left to right: Minsuk Cho, principle of Mass Studies; me; Yoonjoe Park, British Council Arts Manager; Hyungmin Pai, professor of Architecture at University of Seoul; So Ik Jung, architect and curator.
We go to a traditional Korean restaurant in the Insa-Dong area, where we sit on the floor on cushions. The food arrives in large quantities: oysters; octopus; minced beef; cabbage and lots more. It's a little like eating in a private house and the cooks are chopping vegetables in the corridor just outside the dining room.
Minsuk Cho is one of Korea's best known contemporary architects. His Seoul projects include a shop for Ann Demeulemeester (pictured) and the Oktokki Space Centre.
We discuss the Gwangju Biennale, which is due to take place in September this year. British journalist Beatrice Galilee is one of the curators and is organizing a symposium about it on 6 June at her new London venue, the Gopher Hole. Apparently the Mayor of Gwangju is due to attend. We joke that he will be the coolest mayor in the world for coming all the way to the UK to go to a basement in Shoreditch.
After lunch, we wander along the Insa-Dong Gil, a street that is home to traditional Korean crafts and food. The area is designated a special heritage zone which means that no English is allowed on the shopfronts. We come across one of the only branches of Starbucks in the world with no English sign. You can still tell it's Starbucks because of the fake Art-deco lamp shades.