Architecture(s) of Geopolitical Transgression

Korea\’s Demilitarized Zone is the last major scar left from the Cold War conflicts between communism and capitalism that characterized much of the second half of the 20th century. Although the space of the DMZ still remains as it was when first demarcated in 1953, areas near the border that had been suspended in time are now, in the wake of Korea\’s \”Sunshine Policy\” of 1998, being reframed as the touch points of a new, multi-nodal economic landscape. Regardless of both sides\’ political positions, they have recently agreed to collaborate on infrastructure that will eventually redeploy the area as a vast, distributed urban network. Projects underway include the reconnecting of train lines between the North and South and flood control engineering for the Imjin River. The most emblematic project involves the creation of a mega-industrial complex at GaeSung in the North. The new GaeSung complex will join labor forces from the North with technical and administrative support from the South. This studio will conceptualize a \”new city\” just south of the DMZ by refiguring and expanding the existing town of MunSan. The re-creation of GaeSung in the North and MunSun in the South reflect their strategic locations, respectively 12km north, or south of the DMZ along vital rail and highway lines. The studio will pursue strategies to imbue the new city with a cultural significance that not only responds to the contemporary situation, but one that will prefigure larger changes in the Korean geopolitical landscape. Among the changes this city can anticipate, will be the transformation of the Demilitarized Zone from a political border to a shared Ecological Zone at the center of the Korean peninsula. In the short run, MunSun will respond to the needs of South Koreans who will be shuttling across the northern border to provide support for the new manufacturing zone. In the long run, the transformation of MunSun raises challenging questions about the relationship between design and politics in cities formed by the shifting geographies of global trade.Offered jointly in architecture and urban design, the studio will take neither discipline for granted; that is, we will not be pursuing just the making of buildings or master plans, per se. Rather we will be generating strategies to alternate between local, regional and global scales of intervention. On one hand, we will seek to understand and position MunSun as a site in transition from a border town to a network city. On the other, we will contend with a specific area, measuring 730,862 square meters, scrutinizing its potential for specific built interventions that will establish a new identity for the city. Such proposals will also be conceived to mold, delimit or channel future development. The studio will initially focus on recording various forces, behaviors and potentials of the study area, including natural and artificial topography, geographical relationships, historical patterns and infrastructural capacities. We will also pursue various means to map the existing town within the site, in an effort to understand its cultural significance and draw it into the future of the new city. We will be particularly interested in linking the unique, mildly mountainous terrain of the site, where the horizon is always in dynamic profile, to the city\’s capacity to support new, hybrid variations of the live-work-shop-study-play mix. Following the first phases of work the studio will travel to the study area in Korea in the week before Spring break. In addition to visiting Seoul and the study area, the studio will also visit other emerging \”new cities\” such as the Heyri Art Valley and the Paju Book City, which include many new buildings designed by young, internationally recognized architects. We will also visit Hwa Hwoi traditional village and other Korean architecture in southern part of the peninsula. Flights and accommodations for travel to Korea will be pro