The Tuesday Take: Flowing Through Time, 10 Years of DDP

How Zaha Hadid’s Vision Helped Shape Seoul’s Cultural Landscape.

The Tuesday Take: Flowing Through Time, 10 Years of DDP

How Zaha Hadid’s Vision Helped Shape Seoul’s Cultural Landscape.

Good Design is like a well-worn pair of jeans – comfortable, versatile, and effortlessly cool. It molds to our lives, shapes our experiences, and adds a touch of authenticity to the everyday.

And just like that perfectly comfortable pair of denim most of us cherish, South Korea’s Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) has become an integral part of Seoul’s urban fabric, a landmark that reflects the city’s vibrant energy and unwavering spirit. For ten years now, this architectural marvel has stood as a testament to the power of design, a beacon that draws creators, innovators, and dreamers from all corners of the globe.

In March this year, DDP celebrated its first decade, and with this milestone we’re reminded of the profound impact that design has on our lives, shaping not only our physical surroundings but also our cultural identity and aspirations for the future.


 

Let’s rewind to the birth of this architectural marvel. It all started with a vision to transform the aging Dongdaemun Stadium into a vibrant hub for design and culture. The city turned to the late Zaha Hadid, the Iraqi-born “Queen of Curves,” whose neo-futuristic designs have graced global skylines from Beijing to Baku. Hadid’s vision for DDP was nothing short of extraordinary: a sprawling, curvaceous structure that defied traditional architectural norms.

“The city turned to the late Zaha Hadid, the Iraqi-born “Queen of Curves,” whose neo-futuristic designs have graced global skylines from Beijing to Baku.”

And boy, did she deliver. The DDP is a symphony of curves, a mesmerizing dance of concrete, aluminum, and glass. Its flowing facade, adorned with 45,133 shimmering silver panels, seems to shift and morph with the changing light, like a living, breathing organism. Inside, a labyrinth of interconnected spaces unfolds, each more captivating than the last. The DDP is a world unto itself, a dreamscape where imagination knows no bounds.


 

But the DDP is more than just a pretty face. It’s a symbol of Seoul’s creative spirit, a beacon that draws designers, artists, and innovators from around the world. It’s a place where ideas collide and spark, where the boundaries between disciplines blur, and where the future of design is continuously being forged.

The DDP has hosted countless exhibitions, fashion shows, conferences, and events, showcasing the best of Korean and international design. It’s a space that inspires, educates, and challenges us to think differently about the world around us.

“The DDP is more than just a pretty face. It’s a symbol of Seoul’s creative spirit, a beacon that draws designers, artists, and innovators from around the world.”

As part of the 10th-anniversary celebrations, the DDP is currently hosting a poster exhibition -on display till August 4th-  that pays homage to the building’s rich history and cultural significance. The exhibition showcases a diverse collection of posters created by renowned designers from Korea and abroad, each offering a unique perspective on the DDP’s iconic form and its impact on the city.

The exhibition is a full-blown design inspiration extravaganza. It features an eclectic mix of posters by Korean design heavy-hitters like Park Geum-joon, the mastermind behind the DDP’s opening poster in 2014, and Ahn Sang-Soo, the typographic maestro whose work is as iconic as the DDP itself. Throw in the likes of Choi Jong-won, the visual storyteller whose work weaves together history and culture, and Sulki & Min, the dynamic duo known for their playful, experimental approach.

The exhibition also features contributions from international design icons like Jean Jullien, the French illustrator whose witty, minimalist style has graced everything from magazine covers to street art, and Stefan Sagmeister, the Austrian-born, New York-based graphic designer whose work is as provocative as it is beautiful. (As if you didn’t know who they are!).

Each poster in this eclectic collection is a window into the DDP’s multifaceted soul, a visual love letter to its enduring appeal. They’re proof that the DDP isn’t just a building; it’s a canvas for creativity, a muse for designers, and a source of inspiration for us all.

So, if you happen to be in Seoul wandering through Dongdaemun, do yourself a massive design flavoured favour and carve a generous chunk of time out of your day to appreciate the DDP in all its glory. Let its curves and contours ignite your imagination, and allow its spirit of creativity to seep into your soul. And hey, if you find your wallet a little lighter after a trip to the gift shop, don’t blame me.

Those design-forward souvenirs are like stylish sirens, luring you in with their irresistible charm. Besides, who needs another pair of socks when you can own a piece of design & architectural history? (You can actually get some cool official Seoul-branded socks there, ha!).


The DDP 10th anniversary poster exhibition is on display until August 4th, 2024. You can learn more here.

All images by Ibraheem Youssef.

 

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