condenCITY_47 urban dinosaur

The Seoul Express Bus Terminal in Gangnam opened in 1985. City plans have already tagged the building for removal and reconstruction within the next ten years. Like most construction in Seoul, its hulking mass of weighted concrete is oppressive and awkward at best. A walk around the dated structure seems more like 1960 as opposed to something of a 1980's creation. Oddly though, its oddity is precisely it's appeal. 

Entering on either the east or west sides of the building takes you through oversized arcades ( the most interesting spatial experiences at the terminal ) situated at the buildings edges and defined by massive concrete columns extending to foundation.  The spaces are well kept and appear in a continual state of mopped-over preservation, presumably as they have for the past twenty five years.  

Even when open the terminal appears closed. Passengers are funneled down the long flanking sides of the building to entries well concealed and curiously hidden from street view. It was months after living here I realized the terminal was in operation.  Its fortified appearance imposes an impenetrable impression, standing as apparition within the bustle of the busiest bus and subway depot in the city.

condenCITY_46 relative cities : irrelevant form

 image courtesy wiki commons

The 193 km (120 miles) that separate Seoul, South Korea and Pyongyang, North Korea couldn't seem greater if the two cities were actually opposite poles of the planet. With some effort it is possible for foreigners to visit Pyongyang but for now, I am stuck with imagining what the city must like. A unified Korea and seamless visit to Pyongyang seems equally impossible anytime in the foreseeable future. I am left to my imaginative devices but from what I have read and the photos I have seen, there are remarkable similarities between the architectural 'technique' in cities of the north and cities here in the south. Korean architecture is intensely 'form' driven. Seoul is testament to that. The culmination of such projections perhaps is even more evident in the Ryugyong Hotel located in the North Korean capital.

The Ryugyong Hotel construction began in 1987 but was abruptly halted in 1992 amidst the North's  severe economic troubles. The construction of the mega-structure has remained on hold since 1992 however, recent investment has renewed efforts to complete the out-of-place building.  After nearly 16 years, in early 2008, foreign investors and political motivation allowed construction to restart.  The structural skeleton of Ryugyong stands at 105 floors and was initially built to attract foreign investors, dignitaries and guests who would stay in anyone of the staggering 3000 hotel rooms. There have been questions about construction quality and even structural integrity of the building with claims the elevator shafts are misaligned, yet its looming completion pushes on.

The construction now has been projected to be complete by 2012, coinciding with government celebrations marking the 100 year anniversary of the late communist leader (the father of Kim Jong Il). With populations of starving citizens one has to question the motivation of a government to put perverse architectural form ahead of dying social need. Since when have cities been places of equality though? Speculation is, the work now being done is nothing more than an aesthetic 'skin', covering what will remain an empty, non functional building.

condenCITY_45 transitions

hard line
between winter chill
summer heat
caught between light 
and rising steam 
public dimensions
drift in and out
of negotiated