The current pandemic has grounded tourism activities to a halt. While countries that rely economically on tourism have suffered, the current pause in global tourism activity has also provided us with an opportunity to rethink and redefine the future of tourism industry as a sustainable practice. One that moves away from a consumption model towards a contribution model, where tourism sustains and strengthens existing social, political and environmental conditions.
In partnership with the Gangwon Development Initiative, exhibiting at the Venice Biennale 2021 Korean Pavilion, we will envision the future of post-pandemic tourism through the context of Gangwon, a divided province on the Korean peninsula for the past 70 years. Despite its division, Gangwon province has also been the site of experimentation for diplomatic reproachment since the late 1990s. Tourism was used as the tool for this experimentation, where dedicated resorts were built for South Korean tourists to visit Northern Gangwon province. However, the experiment has been stalled due to wider geopolitical tensions.
As noted by several analysts, one reason for these failures can be attributed to the focus on centrally planned large-scale tourism zones and infrastructure projects that are acutely exposed to the pressures of domestic politics and international geopolitics. A new model of development is sorely needed, one that relies on smaller scale, decentralised urban interventions that enables exchanges and dialogues between visitors.
Therefore, the central interest of this studio is to design new forms of tourism architecture. Can tourism be the stimulus for post-pandemic economy recovery and a diplomatic restart for a troubled region? How do we design smaller-scale tourism infrastructure for dialogues and exchanges for peacebuilding?
The studio will begin the semester by uncovering architecture’s long-standing relation to the tourism industry. From ancient pilgrimages to leisure travel and present-day MICE, the evolution of tourism will be documented through analysing supporting building types and urban spaces. The aim of this exercise is to provide a quick overview of the tourism ecosystem through the lenses of spaces, protocols, operations and experiences.
Subsequently, the studio will apply the same method of analysis to Gangwon province as an attempt to understand the current impasse with tourism diplomacy for the region. Particular emphasis will be given to spatially analysing negative encounters between hosts and visitors in these facilities, which resulted in the eventual closure. Supporting the typological building analysis of existing tourism infrastructure, will be a cartographic survey of the region, revealing the interconnections between physical, social, political, economic, environmental conditions of the thematic context (tourism) and site context (Gangwon region).
This will be followed by defining a collective narrative and urban framework for the region, centring on tourism with the mountain range and coastal belt as a development area. The studio will subsequently be divided into smaller groups to critically respond to four types of tourism in Gangwon province through a set of develop architectural proposals. Going beyond resorts for mass tourism, students will design spaces that facilitates cooperation and interaction. Working at multiple scales from 1:100 to 1:10000, the proposals should encompass a development strategy that is defined through specific architectural typologies and urban forms.
Ecological Tourism: Ecological and reforestation projects are one of the few areas of cooperation between both Koreas. How do we design research centres for collaboration on nature and biodiversity protection along the mountain range?
Educational Tourism: Building on Gangwon’s province plan for a Wonsan-Chuncheon university belt, how do we design tourism schools and that allows for training and interaction?
Medical Tourism: Southern Gangwon province is a popular destination for medical tourism, where the natural landscapes provide a setting an integrated medical and healing therapy infrastructure. How do we design recovery centres across Gangwon province that further tap on the natural landscape for recovery?
Aviation Tourism: Divided by the mountain range, the eastern coast of Korea has less rail and road infrastructure, as such, the airports serve as gateways into Gangwon province. How do we conceive the functions of Wonsan Airport (north) and Yangyang Airport (south) as twin gateways? How do we design urban activators along Gangwon coastal highway to connect both airports?
The output of this studio will be an online exhibition of the proposals via a website, video and digital display at the Venice Biennale 2021 Korean Pavilion. Throughout the semester, we will also have discussions with architects, planners and policy makers from the region as part of the studio and biennale activities.