Condencity_17 Seoul underground

It's what is hidden from immediate view that makes cities such great places. Disguised and buried we are forced to seek out complex places that can only be discovered with open eyes. Seoul is a city with a double identity. The street life of Seoul and the underground reality coincide at limited junctions.

Buried pedestrian ways mirror streets above. An Underground shopping network extending more than a quarter mile in Seoul's south side links to subway routes tied to just about every corner of the city. It is part of a cryptic network of public spaces that define Seoul.

There are usually two sides to most things. 

Read the entire article on Seoul Underground at Flavorpill

Condencity_16 외국인

Foreigner (외국인)

Looking from the outside in can be an unsettling thing for many. I happen to like it.

Discovery is unencumbered with fresh, unbiased eyes. In the coming weeks and months of 2009 I will be writing brief accounts of urban and architectural experiences in Seoul for an online culture and arts journal. Formulating ideas and opinions in a city such as Seoul feels natural. Loaded context.
See and write at will.


Chilly Reception
bites hand

Frozen crystal wind

kisses street


Seoul at 16 degrees 

Economy of Change

The downward economic spiral is being lamented at all corners of the media. If we stop and consider for a moment , this economic slide is a good thing for the profession of architecture. No, really it is. It is long past due for critically rethinking what gets built and how it gets done. Certainly there are good projects that take shape during bustling economic times but the majority of our banal built environments are the product of quick speculation. The excess of bad development both urban and suburban now has the chance to be reconsidered and it most likely will be. For profit housing developments, strip malls, deathly banal corporate office buildings' can take pause for a moment.

Many professionals will go through tough times. Many more jobs will be lost and offices will close. Some may even have to reconsider architecture as a viable profession.

Darkness breeds paradigm shifts. The orgy of excess had to end at some point.

Ten Scenarios [for the unresponsive mall]

playground mall

Recently I’ve read numerous articles about the growing retail crisis in light of the current economic situation. Even more eye opening is the impending number of shopping mall closures that may occur throughout the United States due to these conditions. It has been predicted that as many as several thousand may close their doors due to underwhelming performances. Economists and others will argue what a horrible thing this might be for local economies however, after years of exclusivity the mall should be reconsidered. Re-integration, both socially and environmentally within suburban communities; reinvesting on a sustainable level.
The mall has long symbolized a prescriptive social experience offering limited commercial interests and conforming supervised behaviors. Deviation from these expectations has meant expulsion and even labels of criminal negligence. More disturbing may be the consumptive pattern of what malls represent. Massive requirements of regulating energy for internal conditioned spaces, predominant auto reliance for traveling to and from, and altered ecosystems/ waterways, blanketed by vast areas of big box shells and fields of asphalt.
Arguably the mall is life draining in many ways. Perhaps it is time to inspire beyond current rules and expectations? We might consider methods that give back to communities both in social and environmental return (positively and controversially).
I propose 10 alternatives for soon to be vacant malls throughout the US.
PLAYGROUND MALL:: Vacant malls are stripped bare to structural skeletons. The exposed steel frameworks become supports for super slides, swings and jungle gyms. Children’s shouts and laughter break through the parent “shushing” mall day barriers.
MALL FARMING:: Parking lots transform to cultivated fields of seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables. Produce fields are harvested, processed and sold in the newly reclaimed mall structure transformed to farmers market. The existing mall becomes a place of process and marketing, providing the local community a point source of sustenance. Cold climate locations have indoor green houses for year round cultivation.
FREE MARKET MALL:: Aspiring shop owners and impromptu flee marketers ebb and flow in the new free space with raised roof and unlocked doors. It’s first come, first to sell in an ever evolving, ever changing opportunity. Sellers agree to local taxation from profits of sales as trade for space use.
MALL SANCTUARY:: ‘Wild’ teenagers give way to roaming wildlife. Creatures large and small burrow into abandoned walls under locally mandated protection status. After decades of natures reclaim the sanctuary becomes a place of study for young students to observe ‘protected’ progress.
SOLAR MALL:: Vast parking lots with idle cars make way for large solar collecting arrays sufficient to produce energy to power surrounding cities. Mall structures house power stations to store and convert the energy to usable form. The mall publicly demonstrates a quick about-face from ‘consumer’ to ‘producer.’
HOUSE MALL:: The interior transformation of acoustical demising walls, independent heating and cooling systems and separate entries subdivide vacant malls into dense affordable living opportunities for all social levels. Tiered walkways become community sidewalks with evening strollers out well past dinner. Large communal living room space included.
AUTO MALL:: The auto friendly mall goes one step further as a salvage and recycle center for spent automobiles. Abandoned and donated vehicles fill parking stalls and await a trip inside the mall for parting and recycling of all short-life components. Every thing is reclaimed including hazardous materials for proper storage and disposal. The mall is the consumer.
MALL CISTERN:: Vacant malls in rain plentiful regions become large scale water collection, storage and distribution facilities. Big box store shells are emptied and waterproofed to become massive tanks. Parking lots are demolished and surrounding lands once again naturally recharge surface absorbed precipitation.
MALL MAUSOLEUM (and cemetery):: Car stalls become burial plots and massive mall structures convert to house thousands of lifelong dead consumers in refashioned storefronts honoring past lives. Return of families for years to come keeps alive traditions of busy shopping days and holiday traditions.
CONDEMNED MALL:: Wayward drifters, vagabonds and the criminally minded quickly take over endless abandoned corridors. Before long territorial and other disputes establish a one-way trip inside with slim chances of making an exit; people enter but may not return. Entries to condemned malls are posted with legal disclaimers of “enter at own risk”. Temptation proves to be too much for some.