Daegu’s ARC Project

Korea is the greatest culture in the world. Don’t believe me? Just ask a Korean.

A few weeks ago, I made an astonishing discovery that put to rest any lingering doubt I may have had about Korea’s cultural supremacy. One of humanity’s greatest architectural achievements was erected less than two miles from my apartment.

The ARC, Daegu, Four Rivers, Nakdong

The ARC – Daegu, South Korea.

The ARC is a building/monument designed by Korean Egyptian-American architect Hani Rashid and built by Korean German structural engineer Knippers Stuttgart in June, 2012. This Korean project was so spectacular that a single name wasn’t enough. ARC stands for both Architecture of River Culture and Artistry of River Culture.

The ARC was also too marvelous to symbolize just one thing. According to the Daegu city website, The ARC represents: “a skipping stone flying across the surface of the river, a fish jumping out of the water, and the traditional beauty of Korean pottery.

The first floor of the building has three sections. A main lobby with an information center and a large room on either side. Both of the rooms are currently being used as art galleries.

The ARC, Daegu, Blue Statues

This striking display encircles the main lobby of The ARC.

Near the stairway to the second floor is an electronic information kiosk. The large, touch-screen computer offers information about The ARC. Apparently The ARC’s organizers elected to save a bit of money by using Google Translate instead of hiring an English speaker to translate two paragraphs about the project.

Their decision to save $50 by not paying an English-speaker resulted in some classic Engerish!

Their decision to save $50 by not paying an English-speaker resulted in some spectacular Engerish! Click to enlarge.

The second floor is essentially a large, circular hallway that overlooks a huge projection screen stretching all the way around the building. The projectors were not working when I visited, but it was easy to imagine that the images displayed on the screen are amazing when the projectors are operational.

The third floor of The ARC is the roof and viewing deck. There are great views of the Nakdong river and surrounding wetlands. I particularly enjoyed the view of Daegu go the east – I was even able to see my neighborhood.

The ARC, Daegu, roof

The top of The ARC has a reflective pool and a viewing area on both sides.

Daegu, The ARC, Coffee Shop on roof

Connected to the viewing area at the top of The ARC is a coffee shop – a prerequisite for any great cultural center.

As I left the viewing area and headed downstairs, I noticed a large-screen TV beside the stairway on the second floor. The TV was playing a video on loop, so I stopped to watch. The purpose of the video was apparently to drive home the point that The ARC is a cultural and architectural achievement of epic proportions.

The video shows time-lapse images of the world’s greatest buildings being constructed (mostly CGI). ARC visitors can watch the construction of such wonders as the pyramids in Egypt, the Taj Mahal, and even the Manhattan skyline. The video culminates in a series of images showing the construction of The ARC. This is, of course, done for the sake of those who might not have recognized The ARC as one of mankind’s greatest achievements.

Time lapse video building Taj MahalTime lapse video building NYC SkylineTime lapse video building London Bridge

The mix of pomposity and lack of attention to detail is charming in a strange way. It reminded me of a child beauty pageant contestant – no amount of makeup can fool you into believing that she is anything other than a clumsy kid…but it’s kinda cute to watch them try.

It felt like the reason for building The ARC had little to do with celebrating Korea’s rivers and everything to do with creating the image of a modern sophisticated culture – as if the theme was an afterthought. When quality takes a back seat to image, everything feels a bit hollow.

Until next time.


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