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UPDATED: Participation in the Seoul International Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism

Page updated 17 November

The Cyprus Institute (CyI) and the Future Earth Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Regional Centre participated in the recent Seoul International Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism in South Korea. This collaboration was initiated by Melina Nicolaides, an artist, activist and independent curator based in Cyprus. CyI and the MENA Regional Centre, which is hosted by the institute in Nicosia, have worked with Nicolaides to develop an extensive visual presentation for the Biennale that focused on the environmental challenges facing urban centres in the Eastern Mediterranean and MENA region.   

See a photo slideshow of the exhibit space by the MENA Regional Centre:

The Seoul International Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism, which launched 1 September 2017, was a two-month long and large-scale public event. It showcased programmes and exhibits that addressed themes of particular relevance to urban settings on a global scale. This inaugural Biennale, titled “Imminent Commons,” was organised by the Seoul Metropolitan Government and Seoul Design Foundation. It was co-directed by Hyungmin Pai, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) alumnus and professor at Seoul National University, and Alejandro Zaera-Polo of Princeton University in the United States.

The Seoul Biennale sought to identify opportunities and challenges for future cities around the world, and provided a forum for debate among policy-makers, experts and citizens at large. The Biennale’s Cities Exhibition included projects from 50 cities that tackled issues like globalisation, resource depletion, natural disasters and imbalances in consumption and capital – while at the same time trying to sustain their unique history, local culture and social and geographical contexts. This section of the Biennale was held within the Dongdaemun History and Culture Plaza, designed by acclaimed architect Zaha Hadid.

The Cyprus Institute (CyI) and the Future Earth MENA Regional Center (FEMRC) were represented in this exhibition through two projects. The first focused on the city of Nicosia and the second explored regional urban centres of the Eastern Mediterranean and MENA region. These projects brought together data, photos, graphics, maps, projections and visualisations to examine the current and projected impacts of climate change on communities across the region. They were developed and designed in cooperation with the curator of the exhibition by a team composed of members of the Energy, Environment and Water Research Center (EEWRC), the Science and Technology in Archaeology Research Center (STARC) and the Computation-based Science and Technology Research Center (CaSToRC). The projects drew on existing data and information, but also incorporated recent research findings from researchers at CyI.

Project descriptions:

City of Nicosia: This interactive project presents immersive simulations which visualize the future of Nicosia, making it possible to imagine forthcoming conditions of heat, dust and floods. It also points towards the probable impacts of these extreme factors, which could potentially modify daily life, affect human health, and require an alteration in the city’s built structures.

FEMRC regional urban centres: Each participating city is represented by statistical and demographic data which correspond to these growing urban challenges. Comparative data from numerical climate models, such as for temperature and rainfall, plus air quality values, help illustrate how the growing pressures of extreme conditions, such as hotter and drier summers, will be most intensely felt within urban centers.

Numerous partners in the MENA region contributed to the regional urban centres FEMRC project, which is based on evolving cooperation through the framework of Future Earth and the Future Earth MENA Regional Centre. The topics covered were fully aligned with goals and objectives of the Future Earth Urban Knowledge-Action Network and were instrumental in highlighting Future Earth’s work in addressing pressing issues of a sustainable urban development under climate change.

For this project, FEMRC’s partners included institutions in the cities of Rabat (Mohammed V University), Tangier (Abdelmalek Essaadi University), Tunis (National Engineering School of Tunis), Athens (Institute for Environmental Research and Sustainable Development, National Observatory of Athens), Alexandria (Center for Sustainable Development Studies, Bibliotheca Alexandrina), Beirut (Issam Farres Institute, American University of Beirut), Amman (German-Jordanian University), Kuwait City (Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research), Tehran (Hamkar Parsboom Engineers), Muscat (Oman Cancer Association) and individuals who contributed research and data.

The Seoul Biennale ran from 1 September to 5 November 2017 with events across the city. Professor Manfred A. Lange, Acting Director of STARC at the CyI and Director of FEMRC, and Dr. Georgios Artopoulos, Architect and Assistant Professor at STARC, represented the Institute and Regional Centre in Seoul. Dr. Salah A. Soliman of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, which hosts an office in close collaboration with the FEMRC, also attended the Biennale to discuss environmental challenges facing the city of Alexandria, Egypt.

The CyI team for the FEMRC project also included:

  • Theodoros Christoudias, Assist. Professor, CASTORC
  • Panos Hadjinicolaou, Associate Professor, EEWRC
  • Charalambos Ioannou, Visual Designer, STARC
  • Charis Iacovou, Designer, STARC
  • Harry Varnava, Designer, STARC
  • Adriana Bruggeman, Associate Professor, Hydrology & Water Management, EEWRC
  • Jonilda Kushta, Post-Doctoral Fellow, EEWRC