Meeting new people is an integral part of relocating to a new city. It’s also one of the biggest challenges that I face, possibly because, I’m not always good with small talk or meeting new people. I’ve probably mentioned it before, it’s pretty amazing that many of my friends or family, have had a Korean friend. Many Koreans head abroad to get an education, learn a new language, or travel; thereby, increasing their chances of meeting people from different cultures. Jay, a good friend of ours, suggested I meet Sonia (Seung Ro) in Seoul. Sonia and Jay, had met in Australia, whist they were studying and bonded over culture, movies, and art. After 3 weeks of exchanging Kakao chat messages; we decided it was time to put a face to those conversations.
On my earlier trips (my current stay included), I’ve met people from different parts of the globe. Interestingly, many of them, were of Korean origin, their parents having moved abroad (Canada/America/Uzbekistan) while they were kids or before they were born. Most of them don’t identify with Korea, quite understandably, because of the long time they’ve spent away. So, when I asked Sonia if she was Korean-Korean, she was mildly surprised. The good sport that she is, she smiled, and replied that she’s pretty Korean. Although, she reminded me of my Korean friends, who had travelled and lived abroad. Over lunch, we spoke at length, on what we thought we knew best: our countries, our cultures, and ourselves. And, I also got another insight to local life in Seoul; what works, and what doesn’t.
D Museum was a short walk away from the restaurant. The surrounding area was dotted by neatly manicured patches of green and towering buildings — with surprisingly high gates. Being located in the vicinity of international embassies, this area, could be considered to be affluent, and as Sonia pointed out, the greenery was an indicator. In the afternoon, a small crowd blocked the main entrance. Being a Saturday, we expected the rush. Fortunately, Sonia had a pass and we didn’t have to wait in line for an entry ticket. I had to reluctantly play photographer, on this visit, with Basil skipping this meeting. Sonia stood patiently, as I struggled to get the shots I wanted, even if, it meant having to wait for visitors to pass an exhibit.
D Museum is a centre for showcase exhibitions and doubles up as a venue for international film screenings or live musical performances. The current exhibition, Inside Heatherwick Studio, showcases the design ideology of contemporary British artist/designer/innovator, Thomas Heatherwick. The exhibition starts with a short introductory video on the designer and a brief summary of his studio. Amidst the ambient buzz of visitors, it was hard, to hear the audio and since I can’t read Korean yet, I had to move forward.
From thereon, the exhibition is divided into three sections, aptly named under the titles: thinking, making, and storytelling. From sketch to model to actual exhibit; the winding maze of displays don’t fail to work their magic on the discerning eye. It is hard to shortlist the best works on display. The lighting wasn’t always conducive to get a good shot and there was always a flurry of activity — accompanied by — touching hands, arched backs, and peeled eyes. Occasionally, a curious toddler would try to give the exhibit an actual examination.
The sketches on display seem simple at first glance. Maybe too simple, to fool you, into thinking that you could have thought of it yourself. That’s the beauty of minimalism. However, on close inspection of the models and exhibits; you realise the elaborate thought process behind each object. It’s a confluence of design, abstract thought, physics, architecture, imagination, and vision.
New Bus for London, 2012
Expanding Range, 2004 – ongoing
Rugs that transform into bowls and tables that change shapes effortlessly, new design doesn’t necessarily mean new ideas; it could be possible to play with existing ideas — to get something new.
Rolling Bridge, London, UK, 2004
From work-of-art to fully functional crossing; the ‘Rolling Bridge‘ defies conventional design and yet, works without a hitch.
Al Fayah Park, UAE, 2018
A unique design to shield the heat of the desert above whilst letting visitors and vegetation thrive below. The concept of sun-cracked earth couldn’t have had a better fit.
UK Pavilion, Shanghai World Expo, 2012
60,000 clear acrylic rods were used to form the outer shell of this fantastic array of art, geometry, and light. Nicknamed, the Dandelion, by the locals, this display was envisioned as a ‘seed cathedral’. The ends of the rods held approximately 250,000 seeds from the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership. Visitors could follow a path leading from the outside, and eventually, discover what lies within.
The exhibition ends with the installation of spinning chairs titled, ‘SPUN-HULA’. An actual experience is the perfect way to end a walk through new-age design. Kids squealed and adults didn’t really seem to mind having a bit of fun themselves. Sonia coaxed me to give it a go. What’s my verdict? For those who aren’t happy with playing with the laws of gravity and spinning objects; you might want to give it a miss. I’d probably settle for a good bean bag, instead.