World Urban Designers Gather in Seoul

Event host Seoul Mayor Oh stresses importance of design in the process of city development













The World Design Cities Summit was attended by 400 high-ranking municipal officials including mayors, design delegates and experts from 31 cities in 17 countries who exchanged their ideas for strengthening the competitive power of design and policies to develop it, as it is necessary for the development of cities.
The global event took place on Feb. 23-24 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Seoul with the theme of "Cities that Develop with Design, the Competitive Power for Cities in the 21st Century," which sparked a heated debate among the municipal officials and design professionals gathered at the meeting.
Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, the host of the event, said in his welcoming speech on Feb. 23 that many people call him "the design mayor." Seoul has been named one of the three best cities to visit in the New York Times as a result of the city's stress on design in its city planning policies during the past four years.
Oh says that Seoul will strive to get ahead of other cities in the world in making design an important part of its policies.
"I think design is consideration, communication, culture, leisure, pleasure and economy. So, if I put it into one sentence: Design is everything,
" the mayor said. Oh declared his design-first policy in an opening speech at the two-day WDC (World Design Capital) World Design Cities Summit in Seoul.
The summit is a part of official events of WDC Seoul 2010 and Seoul was designated the 2010 World Design Capital for its potential and passion for design by the International Council of Societies of International Design (ICSID).
Mark Breitenberg, president of ICSID, said the WDC program is to highlight the accomplishments of cities that have truly mastered the power of design as a tool to improve the social, cultural and economic life within.
Torino, Italy was selected the first WDC in 2008. Torino Mayor Sergio Chiamparino said the city used to be a typical manufacturing town, but was reborn as a design city led by the municipal government.
The Italian city was full of automobile factories, such as Fiat, and other metallurgy, chemical and aeronautics plants by the 1980s. As the factories scattered across the nation, the city chose design as their next-generation growth engine. Torino's philosophy in design was preserving the exterior of the industrial city while unifying the concept of design throughout the city.
For instance, Lingotto, a landmark of Torino, was a Fiat factory turned into a large shopping complex with a park and conference center.
Helsinki, the next WDC, is eager to promote its design and appointed the Design District in downtown Helsinki to present Finnish design and top-class design products. The city also has Helsinki Design Week, an annual city festival founded in 2005 to introduce people to new design. The 2010 Design Week runs from Aug. 27 to Sept. 5.
The Scandinavian city is famed for Finnish art nouveau architecture, which has strong local characteristics of asymmetry and curved lines.
Helsinki Mayor Jussi Pajunen said they founded a comprehensive university, combining culture, technology and economy, named after Alvar Aalto, a Finnish architect and designer, regarded as the "Father of Modernis" ?in northern Europe.
Pajunen said boundaries fade away and creativity and knowledge will connect everything.
Chaired by Helena Hyvonen, rector of the University of Art and Design, Helsinki, the second plenary session focused on caring for citizens in future design cities. Mayors and delegates came from Eindhoven, the Netherlands; Taipei, Taiwan; Beijing, China; Bangkok, Thailand; and Ankara, Turkey. Beijing announced its bid to become 2014 World Design Capital and asked for other cities?delegates to support them.
Three parallel sessions continued in the afternoon "Design & Urban Development," "Design & Business" and "Design and Quality of Life."
The mayors adopted the "Seoul Design Cities Declaration," in promoting further cooperation in urban development through design at the end of the first session on Feb. 23.
A special session on "Design & Future Cities" was presented by Helena Hyvonen of the University of Art and Design, Helsinki; former Korean culture minister Lee O-young; Chen Dongliang of Beijing Industrial Design Center; and Chris Wainwright of the University of the Arts, London.
Mayor Oh gave a tour of "Design Seoul," including Dongdaemun History and Culture Park, Cheonggye Stream and Gwanghwamun Square. nw

Some of the participants at the World Design Cities Summit held Feb.23-24 in Seoul pose together for a photo session, among them Seoul City Mayor Oh Se-hoon, Torino City Mayor Sergio Champarino and Helsinki Mayor Jussi Pajunen.

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