Borrowed City

Borrowed City, a book by Marco Bruno, assistant professor of Foundation and his partners Simone Carena and Minji Kim, won the DAM (Deutsches Architekturmuseum) Architectural Book Award 2013. Published in South Korea by Damdi in July 2013, Borrowed City delves extensively into the uses of Seoul’s public spaces, documenting and analyzing a diverse spectrum of typologies and activities through photographs, diagrams and installations.

An ongoing project developed by experimental space-lab MOTOElastico (Carena, Bruno and Kim), the book is the result of research the authors have developed over the past four years and illustrates the main features of the local space borrowing, ranging from individual extravaganzas to collective behaviors. Each sample is described through images and exploded drawings, with the purpose to isolate the ingredients and invite the audience to reconsider the way they experience them in everyday life. A series of “Mutations”, creative transformations designed by MOTOElastico, are also featured in the book. The projects take advantage of selected borrowed ingredients to design unexpected yet familiar artifacts, showing the potentials of such creative process.

Once individual interaction with public space begins, our presence must be constantly negotiated with the rest of the community, something which changes according to local culture or rules and becomes self-defining, a mutual agreement among citizens. Most of these “negotiated” activities are illegal, but at the same time they are the result of a mutual agreement among citizens, which is a fundamental process in any democracy. For this reason, “borrowing space” should be considered more as a resource to exploit than a problem to eradicate say the authors through the study.

“Borrowed City is the filter we used to investigate Seoul public realm. Most of the borrowing activities we observed around the city are rich in creativity and social negotiation skills. There are plenty of surprising stories behind them: we find these stories inspiring and full of design potentials because they test our level of tolerance and they stimulate us to consider alternative ways of using the public space of our cities. We realized Borrowed City is not only a physical place, but most of all is a state of awareness: we don’t own any space we borrow it all! Borrowing space is the level zero of sharing, it is the first rule of sustainability. Borrowed City is indeed a very Smart City,” say the authors.

The results of the research have already been presented throughout exhibitions, workshops and lectures in Korea, Italy, Thailand and Qatar. The aim is to turn Borrowed City into a global project comprising urban research, social awareness, creative transformation and innovative form of public space administration. From a Borrowed City to a Borrowed Planet!