Ever wondered what it would feel like to be an action hero? One minute jumping off from a burning building and the next staging a mountain rescue or saving a family from a grim end down a gigantic whirlpool? Soon-min Hong, a graduate of the Royal College of Arts, London, has the answers by designing an adrenaline packed theme park revolving around the concept of risk. But the park – appropriately named ‘Risk Theme Park’ – would provide more than an unorthodox adrenalin fix, it would help the general public prepare for danger. More so, it do this whilst growing a stronger appreciation for emergency crews which, according to Hong, are today being taken for granted much too often.
Unveiled at the 2015 Graduate Show of the Royal College of Art (RAC), ‘Risk Theme Park’ is a theme park which, instead of rides, would be filled with risky attractions. Rides include train wrecks, burning buildings, rough waters, high cliffs, explosions, mountain rescues, fire balls, and more daredevil acts. All this mayhem is displayed by Hong in cute and playful graphics, but behind its fun venere lies a very profound conscious desire to shake-up our contemporary risk-adverse society.
“My question is how can an architectural proposal increase the public’s appreciation for risk-taking and promote it as a value?” says Soon-min Hong.
“We live in an age obsessed with personal safety,” he continues. “This creates a ‘risk deficit’ in society, forcing others to take on that risk on behalf of the public. Typically, these are members of the emergency services, notably the fire services who regularly place their lives in jeopardy to serve the public interest.”
What the designer seeks in his dancing-with-death playground is to educate society through a series of game-like (but also extremely realistic may we add) scenarios, where the name of the game is risk-taking. In turn, this would not only prepare the general public in the events of a real-life calamity, but also underline what it means to be an emergency crew working on hazards daily.
“Traditional adventure playgrounds encourage children to take risks in play, because it is beneficial for the child’s development, yet as we grow older, this value is dismissed through education,” he says. “I think, through taking a risk in relation to the duties of firefighters, the public can realise how hard their duties are, and how valuable their efforts and sacrifices are.”
‘Risk Theme Park’ is intended for Daegu, South Korea. In 2003, the city suffered casualties when an arson attack in the underground claimed 120 civilian lives. Despite this, Hong claims that the emergency services – especially the fire fighters – remain undervalued, underpaid, and poorly equipped. The park would stand as a high-rise, formed by a series of architectural components on a structural frame, built on top of an existing fire and police station. It would have 9 levels, each associated to a different hazard and its opened facades would render the animated real-life displays highly visible for the whole city to see.
Naturally, the building would have to have replaceable components, something which the designer has indeed thought of in the proposal. Hong explains how, “some of the building can be destroyed in a fire as a simulation, and then rebuilt for the next experiment or simulation”.
As strange as it may sound, this risky-ride of a building is based on precedents which exist in South Korea. Known as ‘Safety Experience Centres’, these are places dotted around urban peripheries where people can visit and get educated on how to deal with disasters and dangers. However, unlike the existing precedents, Hong’s proposal would be located at the centre of a city and would focus on the idea of risk-taking and not safety.
“I visited the Daegu Safety Theme Park and experienced the two-hour course,” explains Hong. “My design has a totally different approach. I think people would be more interested in a risk theme park than a safety experience centre.”
Soon-min Hong developed this left-field concept as his final year project for the RAC’s Architecture Programme, led by dRMM architect Alex de Rijke. Like any respectable theme park, Hong’s proposal also comes equipped with a handy brochure with details of which activities to find on each floor.