The FAR Game: Constraints Sparking Creativity
용적률(容積率)게임: 창의성을 촉발하는 제약(制約)
One the Korean Front Line 한국의 전선(戰線)에서
The Korean Pavilion, Biennale Architettura 2016, La Biennale di Venezia
By Sung Hong KIM, Eungee CINN, Keehyun AHN, Seungbum KIM, Isak CHUNG, Da Eun JEONG, Richard Enos
The front line of the architectural battles waged in Korea inexorably runs through its capital city of Seoul. Korean architects may think they have the vision of field generals, but when handling their missions in Seoul, they are often asked to operate more like foot soldiers.
The Korean urban architect works under the constant pressure of two opposing forces. One comes from Seoul’s hyper-density; the greater Seoul metropolitan area, representing 12% of South Korea’s land mass, is home to nearly half of the citizens of the entire country. Hence plot prices are at a premium, and the architect is always under strict orders to augment useable floor area in order to maximize a developer’s and land owner’s profits. The other is an urban building regulatory system where strict and unyielding rules give public officials little discretion for negotiation.
Korean architects must therefore always be prepared to perform a high-wire balancing act. Their endeavor to deal optimally with these opposing forces in the planning and execution of their buildings is known euphemistically as ‘playing the FAR Game’.
Facing this tug-of-war between private profit and public regulation, how is the Korean architect truly to ply his trade, and infuse his work with some form of aesthetic or socio-cultural considerations? The answer from today’s Korean architects, evidenced by the 36 buildings showcased in this exhibit, is to use the constraints brought on by the FAR game to spark their creativity rather than allowing those constraints to stifle it.
The main target is medium-scale multi-family houses or mixed-use buildings, which in earlier times would not have been on the radar of most architects. Yet, as this exhibit will show, these projects are now providing fertile grounds for creative responses to the intense high-stakes pressures of the FAR game.
Why Does the FAR Game Matter?
“The FAR Game is a powerful lens into the current frontiers of Korean society as expressed by the scale of buildings in the cities and the urban fabric.”
“Korean architects creatively absorb hyper-density by crossing over from quantity to quality, and turn the motivation of short-term individual profit into the realization of long term public benefits.”
“The FAR Game in Korea has gone through changes with the decline of large-scale demolition and reconstruction projects. It fosters a slow but resilient form of urban regeneration on a smaller scale within sub-blocks.”
Press Coverage Highlights
International New York Times
Hettie Judah, 23 May 2016
‘Six Not-to-Miss Shows at the Venice Architecture Biennale’
Hettie Judah selected the Korean Pavilion, one of her top picks for the Architecture Biennale. She wrote that the FAR is a ‘hot topic’ in Seoul.
Ellie Stathaki and Sara Sturges, 20 May 2016
‘Our interactive guide to the top events at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale’
Ellie Stathaki and Sara Sturges included the Korean Pavilion in their interactive guide and gave a brief description.
Massimiliano Giberti, 21 May 2016
‘Il Padiglione Corea alla Biennale di Venezia’
The article discussed the fundamental questions addressed by the Pavilion of Korea: can architectural and urban quality be defined by a numerical ratio?
Robert Martin, 21 May 2016
‘Venice Biennale Curator Series: Korea’
Robert Martin conducted an interview with Sung Hong Kim and asked questions relating to the process of conceptualising the pavilion, the role of the Venice Architecture Biennale in contemporary society and current demographic and architectural issues in Korea.
Il Giornale dell’Architecturra Online
Lorena Alessio, 26 May 2016
‘Corea del Sud: “The FAR Game: Constraint Sparking Creativity’
Lorena Alessio described the pavilion as ‘courageous and compelling’ and likened the role of the architect as presented in the exhibition to that of a ‘magician’. She continued by explaining the concept of the FAR game and quoted curator Sung Hong Kim.
Oliver Wainwright, 30 May 2016
‘Venice architecture biennale pavilions – a souped-up pre-school playground’
Oliver Wainwright’s feature critiqued the Venice Biennale however he described the Korean Pavilion as ‘an elegant demonstration…’ and a ‘didactic display’. He wrote that the Pavilion provided a ‘fantastic window on to the peculiar outcomes of FAR zoning codes’.
30 May 2016
‘Why the FAR (Floor Area Ratio) Game?: Inside Korea’s Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Biennale’
Arch Daily published Sung Kim’s curatorial statement and explained the key ideas behind ‘playing the FAR Game’
Stephan Becker, 30 May 2016
‘Happy People in den Giardini: Ein Rundgang mit Menschen also Staffage’
Stephan Becker rounded up the Venice Architecture Biennale and highlighted it as a ‘place of exchange’ and for ‘new aesthetic position’. He mentioned the Korean Pavilion’s focus on the Far Game in the context of housing issues as a theme in the Biennale.
Corriere della Sera
Cristina Piotti, 31 May 2016
‘Biennale d’Architettura: padiglioni in pillole (digitale)
The Korea Pavilion is listed as a ‘must-see’ in this summary and highlights of the Biennale piece.
Ellie Stathaki, 1 June 2016
‘World tour: the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale’s national participations’
Ellie Stathaki included Korea in her feature that summarises this year’s participants and highlighted the theme of housing, which was also approached by the British and Japanese pavilions.
2 June 2016
‘Partecipazioni nazionali – Biennale Architettura’
Vogue Italia ran a piece that included 12 photographs from the Architecture Biennale, one of which was of the Korean Pavilion.
10 June 2016
‘Venice Biennale 2016: What is architecture actually for?’
CNN Style produced a video about the Venice Architecture Biennale narrated by curator Alejandro Aravena and which included a clip of the Korean Pavilion.
Art Daily online
20 June 2016
‘Pavilion explores the challenges and achievements of Korean architecture’
The article summarised the concept of the FAR Game and issues facing Korean urban architects. It also included a paragraph about the activity of Arts Council Korea and a biography of Sung Hong Kim.