My “Visit” to the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea

On the 9th of March, I travelled the world wide web to Seoul, South Korea. The trip took about two seconds with Wi-Fi Airlines and upon the stress-free arrival, I went straight to the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. I had “booked” a place at the exhibition called “Olympic Effect: Korean Architecture and Design from 1980s to 1990s”.

Part 1, The Olympic Effect, VR Tour, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea

As I “walked” through the exhibition floors, I began to realise how large economic events like the Olympics can have an influence on the design culture in a country. For Korea, there was a drive to globalise and industrialise its civilisation before the historic event. At the same time companies like Samsung and Goldstar were experiencing rapid technological growth. This changed “the social status and role of designers and architects before and after the Seoul Olympics”. Designers found themselves at the forefront of nationwide innovation and organizational and systemic renewal.

Part 2, Designers, Organizations and Processes, VR Tour, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea

“Public funds invested in the transnational event in addition to the changes in technology trends, that cannot be solely tied to the aftermath of the Olympic Games, invigorated design processes like never before.”

With increased funding for design, new tools became available for designers that changed or rather complimented their process. Offices were completely changed from drafting boards and paper to computers and CAD programs. Korean designers were suddenly valued much more than before, “they emerged as experts who planned and led innovation rather than mere illustrators”. And, in a typical designer fashion, they didn’t take this opportunity for granted. Instead, they “utilized various media and tools to develop and draft their strategies and proposals in attempt to maintain an edge over engineers”. Design finally took a place on the pedestal, draped in gold medals.

Part 4, Tools and Technology, VR Tour, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea
Design Lab, VR Tour, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea

Design is expensive, is what I often hear. I think it’s common when cutting costs to re-evaluate the importance of design which is a shame. But, from studying the Olympic Effect on Korea, I think design, though often expensive, is economically crucial. It’s a driving force. And while it’s catalytic influence can’t be attributed to any one part of design, I think it’s that core process that makes design so adaptable to any situation. And we needn’t look so far to see another example of design receiving increased recognition and having significant influence during a substantial economic event (*coughs in a mask* pandemic *coughs in a mask*).

Industrial Design Section, VR Tour, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea

I highly recommend visiting the exhibition, it’s available until April 11th:

Olympic Effect: Korean Architecture and Design from 1980s to 1990s > National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (mmca.go.kr)

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