Korea has remarkable strengths in the field of construction with its fast rate of completion, attention to quality and competitive pricing. Yet if Korean firms hope to play a major global role in the decades to come, they must take the lead not merely in quality and predictability, but also in innovation and creativity, introducing new concepts of community and urban planning.
Korea has considerable expertise in new technologies, but there is a lag between their development and their application in construction. That lag should be narrowed. The cutting edge solar panels, or new materials, or insulation technologies Korea is developing today should be applied immediately in construction so that the buildings Korea builds stand out. Research institutes developing new technologies should consider close alliances with construction companies for this purpose. Construction is the application of new technologies to the space we inhabit and as such is an excellent opportunity to make use of Korea’s strengths in biotechnology, IT and nanotechnology.
The next generation of Korean construction must make esthetics paramount. Artists and visionary figures should be involved in the process of imagining how buildings are constructed and how they fit together. The next generation of Korean buildings should be diverse in design, and artistically pleasing. The 59th floor of new building should be fascinating to the observer that he would want to take the elevator up to see it. For that matter, elevators should be so entertaining and efficient that they lure people into buildings.
Construction should be about creating exciting original spaces that draw people in: buildings with intriguing corners and unexpected mixtures of wood, plant and stone. Each building should be unique. It might even be good to offer free studio space to artists at the heart of apartment complexes and office buildings. Those artists will naturally create unique spaces around them and their activities will make the residents feel they are part of something greater than the individual, something that inspires and contributes to the community.
In the long term, these constructions firms will cease to be simply construction companies, becoming consulting companies engaged in the essential questions of life: responding to the growth of megacities and environmental challenges of the current age. These firms should have research institutes dedicated to working together with experts around the world to come up with workable solutions to the challenges of our age: energy, environment and the new economy. The construction company is not selling a building, but rather a concept.
Green growth will be a large part of construction. That term does not refer only to solar panels and space-age insulation technologies. Green means literally the technology of growing plants’ field that construction companies must master. The skill of growing diverse species of plants quickly and effectively will be as important as concrete and steel in the age of global warming.
In the next stage of Korea’s development in the international construction business, marketing Korea itself will be critical. How Koreans live in Korea, the appearance of Korean cities and towns will be essential to making Korean overseas construction successful. Koreans will live in attractive ecocities with great public spaces and excellent schools. Let us take the case of IKEA, the world-famous international furniture firm. IKEA markets its products around the world by selling them as the embodiment of a positive image of healthy and sophisticated lifestyle of Sweden. Korea should similarly build an image of a healthy and attractive Korean lifestyle that is associated with its buildings and communities. That image will make its construction companies more competitive.
Prof. Emanuel Pastreich, Ph.D