Folly I Overview & Concept

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Folly I

Folly I Overview & Concept

“Gwangju Folly” – Cultural Landscape in Gwangju 

‘Gwangju Folly,’ introduced to the downtown of Gwangju in 2011, represents designs for urban public facilities that are planned as part of the 4th Gwangju Design Biennale. As the title “Not every design is true design” signifies, the 4th Gwangju Design Biennale had the goal of exploring our lives by addressing the fundamental meaning of design in the current design environment which is completely different from the past.

Design, after the advent of mass production in the era of industrial revolution, became an important tool to create demand, and has become a field with tremendous influence. Designers came to occupy a position of authority as sole decision-makers and suppliers, and the brands based on those designs became laden with high added value. However, in the age of high-speed information and communication networks appeared, the design environment has dramatically changed; users became the evaluators and decision-makers of various designs, and the designs specifically meant for individuals, rather than for the general public, have become more valuable. That’s the reason why a question concerning the fundamental meaning of design was raised.

As a result, two key terms have surfaced. By displaying both ‘named designs,’ the ones with brands or designer names, and ‘unnamed designs,’ nameless designs commonly seen in our daily lives, the values of design creators were explored. In addition, ‘urban folly,’ a design based on expressing the identity of a community and its locality, was displayed in order to explore the values of particular groups and their locality in designs.

The word Folly, signifying ‘ridiculous action,’ was commonly used in the architecture industry denoting ‘small public facility with cultural characteristics in cities,’ after Bernard Tshumi had used the word in that context with his designs for the La Villette park (Parc La Villette) in Paris in the 1980s. Many cities set up follies in order to revitalize their cultural scenes through small facilities placed in special spot throughout the city.

Although follies are small, they can serve essential role in underdeveloped areas by stimulating cultural activities. Therefore, in spite of its inception as part of the Design Biennale, a need for a unified master plan for Folly became evident to promote a continuous and collective development throughout the entire city of Gwangju rather than presenting multitudes of disparate, short-term events. The project, titled ‘Gwangju Folly,’ is based on a master plan revised at least 5 times by the curators, Young-joon Kim and Ramon Prat; and 10 locations were designated along the traces of Gwangju-eup castle as sites of follies during the first stage of the project.

Although Gwangju-eup castle was completely destroyed in modern day Gwangju city, the urban traces remained on the current roads of the city; if follies are set up through the spots where the apex and castle gate used to be located, it could restore the historicity and revitalize the old, underdeveloped downtown.

In support of such a mission, world-class architects wholeheartedly participated in the project despite modest compensation and a tight deadline, and ‘Gwangju Folly’ was introduced to the world on September 1, 2011.

The benefits of Gwangju Folly as sites of cultural attraction multiply when the project is carried out continuously. That’s how Gwangju can showcase its urban landscape with artistic atmosphere. I call it a ‘cultural landscape.’


Seung, H. Sang 

Executive Director of Gwangju Design Biennale 2011 


  • Need for an alternative urban regeneration approach with a brand value to revitalize the old city center
  • Utilizing the brand image of the world renowned designers to create a cultural asset unique to Gwangju

Gwangju Folly Project 2011

  • Location: The Gwangju Eupsung (old city fortress) / Select locations in Gwangju
  • Project Period: 2010. 10 ~ 2011. 12
  • Content: Follies from 11 renowned architects/artists
  • Create iconic tourist attractions by utilizing small lots in the city
  • Urban regeneration : Reinterpretation of the Gwangju Eupsung (old city fortress) that was demolished by the Japanese during the late 19th century.

Expected Effect

  • Install follies which reflect the history and culture of Gwangju while creating a base for Gwangju as a new city of design
  • Become a part of people’s daily lives
  • Act as a catalyst in creating a new vitality to the city

Project Schedule

  • Policy Planning : Aug. 31st, 2010
  • International Seminar for the Gwangju Folly Project : Oct. 28th~29th, 2010
  • Selection of sites / architects : Nov. 26th, 2010
  • Participating architects’ workshop : Dec. 3rd, 2010
  • Site Survey : Dec. 3rd, 2010
  • Briefing Session with the citizens : Feb. 17th, 2011
  • Urban Folly Groundbreaking Ceremony : May 12th, 2011
  • Gwangju Folly Completion Ceremony : Sept. 1st, 2011