Condencity_24 opposing centers

new center (left) old center (right)

I have been postulating on the complex development of Seoul's urban centers. While I can't pretend to be anywhere near understanding how this great urban mix has grown so quick, I do have basic observations from an outsiders perspective. I have been meeting and talking with a number of informed people lately on Seoul's rapid growth. It is an urban anamoly the likes of which have not been duplicated anywhere on the planet.

The image on the left (courtesy wiki commons) is of Seoul's new business center, Gangnam (South of the Han River). Amazingly, this view and district in the city did not exist 30 years ago. On the right is Gangbuk, the historic center of the city (North of the river) and cultural nucleus. While both pictures from an aerial vantage depict a modern, vertical city, the pedestrian experience is quite different.

I'm interested in Seoul's split identity; a struggle between two urban halves, divided by river boundary. It is a fascinating polarity exposing physical and social divide. As the city continues to evolve at its frenetic pace
a recent interest in public spaces is bringing new life to the common grounds of the city; in doing so, bridging a divide that has given Seoul a double identity.

Local re_action 3

I have written several times in past months about the work being done by design students from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. Just this past week was a groundbreaking for the completion of their latest project. The students, using salvaged lumber from an aging and underutilized barn, reassembled the wood for an addition to a local restaurant.

This new addition recalls history of the town through material reference and construction technique. Its new form and function recapture in some ways what is fading from rural Canadian town life as people transition to nearby urban centers. Abandoned train and agricultural interests reappear symbolically as promising times to come.

The intensity of the process, from deconstruction of existing old structures through construction completion has relied on the resilience and dedication of both students and of local community volunteers. Amazingly, all of the Clearwater projects, including this one, took shape in a matter of days (after months of initial planning).

Condencity_23 Vertical Life

By some estimates more than half of the population in South Korea resides in high rise apartments. It is a vertical life; efficient and stacked, at times reaching more than 50 floors in height. The apartment phenomenon here in Seoul, through government promotion grew exponentially over the past 40 years. It is a commonality today in modern Seoul life; speculatively driven high density apartments. Savvy buyers quickly snatch up apartments for long and short term investment potential. An urban regenerative cycle is fed and new developments rise in place of old apartment blocks.

Condencity_22 Twilight skyline

Sky and skyline meet in the Seoul twilight. The south of the river district where I currently live is punctuated with the rare open urban space to afford resident units limited views. From the 7th floor where I reside the jagged relationship between sky and skyline comes into focus. An edge continuously shifting, it is a clear reminder of the ever evolving form of this mega-city.