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This spring, in Seoul, a sprawling 125,000-square-feet, Zaha Hadid-designed plaza opened to the public. The Dongdaemun Design Plaza acts as the connective tissue between facilities like event spaces and galleries, a public park, and the neighborhood’s 24-hour shopping locales—that is, if people are actually willing to use it.
“It’s a very beautiful, pristine, well-designed plaza, so all the participants were a little hesitant to engage with the space at all,” says Kamiel Klaase, a principal at NL Architects in the Netherlands. Earlier this year Klaase (and ten other international architecture firms) got an invitation from the Korean architect Young Joon Kim, who is curating the plaza now that it’s open, to design structures that would “activate the space” and give residents agency to traverse or just linger on the plaza. […]