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Recent travels, both independently and as part of my formal education in architecture have encouraged me to consider the related issues of empire, colony and what comes after.

The Free Unit presents the unique opportunity to bring the topic into focus and to critically discuss and analyse the question of national identity, specifically in countries that have been subject to foreign imperialism in the 20th century.  In this context the ideals of a nation may still be formative or subject to competing symbols and allegiances.

Korea was annexed as a colony of the Empire of Japan in 1910 and occupied until 1945.  I propose to conduct research in Seoul that will consider the role of urban development in defining post-colonial national identity.  In comparison with colonies of European Empires, the Japanese occupation was relatively short - I aim to determine it’s scale of influence on the built environment and subsequent architectural language.  I am interested in identifying traces from the period of occupation and uncovering the friction between what is retained and what is removed*. 

Capital cities act as a focal point from which a determined identity disseminates.  The term ‘capital’ takes on a dual meaning when considering Seoul, a global city and bastion of Capitalism in the Far East.  This positioning is manifest in the high speed, high rise development of the city, defined in opposition to the Communist North Korea.  The city has played a role in national, financial and ideological empires.    

I propose investigation at a variety of scales. Public spaces, monuments and administrative buildings play a key role as reference points of a shared identity as interpreted by government. But how much Seoul’s new architectural language has been directed at the human scale by it’s inhabitants; both deliberately or even by accident?

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