Seoul formless_2.3

Namdaemoon 1904

Many discussions were held this semester about the historic 'plan' of Seoul. Perhaps more succinctly was the lack there of. Seoul's earliest beginnings excluded any semblance of urban planning. The urban form which emerged at the turn of the 20th century was the result of land ownership and negotiated, sometimes indistinctly blurred boundaries. 

Seoul could be described as a city in reverse. Its roads and thorough fares, by-products of an indigenous architecture and building 'mass'. Viewed another way, the city streets and routes came second. Cities, as we known them in many other places (as in western cities), are often the direct result of planned efforts forged of transportation routes and zoned districts.

Seoul, it seems is exactly opposite.

condenCITY_49 long city 2.0

The final days of each semester seem to expose more questions than answers but perhaps this should be the goal of any studio objective; establishing questions which then become seeds of interest for lifelong journey's and investigations. This semester my students have been challenging Seoul's decision to demolish Saewoon Sanga and replace the 40 year old structure with park space. (See thoughts on Saewoon from previous words condenCITY_42.)

The contention that this mega-structure is a vital part of the cities rapid transformation (although recent history has rendered the building obsolete) and in part can become a continuation of Seoul's history and future. Student projects considered urban as well as architectural issues at divergent (and relevant) scales. Project proposals instigated ideas for temporary and in themselves transformable solutions, recognizing the ever evolving nature of Seoul and the emerging questions 'how do we respond to the these rapid changes' and 'how can we consider existing structure as relevant and adaptable as opposed to expendable' (which is often the case here in Seoul). 

The above works were completed by Hanyang University students Eun Hee Lee, Jong Hyun Kim and Hyun Kim from top to bottom respectively. 


condenCITY_48 Vertical life 2.0

The apartment phenomenon and proliferation has transformed the face of Seoul. There is no other building type that has so drastically shaped the image and form of Seoul. Its current (yet loosely defined) life cycle stands at around 35 years after which entire complexes and numerous apartment units fall to the demolition crane. The first generation of such apartment complexes in Seoul's southern urban districts have already begun to be redeveloped, with aging buildings being replaced with higher density developments. 

Banpo Dong's apartment explosion began in the 1970's. Lining the Han River on the south side of the city, thousands of apartments of this residential district await 'ugrades' with apartment dwellers sometimes divided about being displaced, often with economic incentives spearheading disputes and holdouts (there has to be unanimous agreement amongst current dwellers prior to any redevelopment). The Shin Banpo is one such complex at the twilight of its lifespan. 

Apartment blocks in Seoul are places of homogeniety. Individuality is camouflaged amongst drab concrete slabs dressed in standard neutral beige. The apartment phenomenon has been the center of cultural debate as such residential conditions seem to skirt the very traditions of social contact and place identity here in Korea. Conditions that seem long lost in Seoul's quest to house exploding urban populations of the past forty years. While measures to improve such developments in recent times have been to improve housing design and livable conditions, ironically (as in most sub-urban residential developments anywhere in the world) implemented codes and zoning instill a cycle of stifled potential in advancing such residential models. The results are often more of the same as prescribed by written laws.