Un-condensed rural 1.0

I'm not going to use the words 'green' or 'sustainable'. Truly we have always know of these ideas, lived them to a larger extent (in many cultures around the world) without the commercialized use of these terms, without the "greening" of anything. So how have we forgotten about these basics of life? How have we forgotten what it means to be a part of our environment so seamlessly? These are fundamental questions that seem easily exposed when visiting places inherently part of a larger system. 

I recently revisited a historic garden in the far south on the Korean peninsula. Maintained for over five hundred years, Soswaewon has passed through successive generations as a place of seclusion, meditation and scholarly discourse. It has passed through the hands of political outcasts, scholars, invading governments (Japan) and was subsequently rebuilt after Colonial destruction.  In Korea, it is one of the most recognized historical places of its kind and continues to represent uncompromising points of view regarding 'constructing' in the context of nature. Balance has been established through relationships. 

Soswaewon is composed of a meandering wall which, encloses the garden on all sides except to the southeast where the site is bound by a small creek. The wall shifts from edge boundary to internal divisor and in doing so separates a small structure (a residence of the host) situated at the highest elevation in the garden. An even smaller residence for a guest placed at the lowest elevation just below the hosts house.  At the middle of the garden the wall encloses a small outdoor space of meditation, or what one can assume was the past function of this 'outdoor room'. The wall continues to transform over the restricted distance of the valleys shifting topography, giving way to altered functions. The wall rises and falls, responding to both nature and human necessity.  Its function oscillating between boundary and permeability, being seen and being invisible, exposing and concealing. The expression of which is a clear reflection of a balanced existence. 

condenCITY_51 lost city

 Namdaemoon destruction and reconstruction: images courtesy Chosun Ilbo

Just over two years ago an arsonist set fire to Sungnyemun on Feb. 11, 2008. Korea's No. 1 national treasure was burned with almost 70% (as reported in the news) total destructive damage to original wood structure with the entire second level of the ancient city gate known as Namdaemun being destroyed. Sungnyemun was originally constructed in 1396. The reconstructive efforts have exposed newly unearthed original foundation stones dating back to the early period of the Joseon Dynasty.

The newly discovered foundations have also revealed discrepancies in what was thought to be the original elevation of the old city gate. Excavation experts have noted that the current ground level around the historic structure is approximately 1.4 meters higher than the orginal ground elevation, obscuring the original foundation stones. As reported researches will now document the gates height at 8 meters obove sea level.


condenCITY_50 seoul adaptations 1.0

 Jong-gak 2002

 I took this photo in the winter of 2002 while living in Seoul. While so much has changed here, so much hasn't. In 2002, this perspective of commercial Seoul represented to me all that was different here regarding the urban condition; so much so it is still at the forethought of my interest in Seoul as a place of urban adaptations. Buildings and commercial structures are 'soft surfaces' (and for the most part irrelevant in design) readily manipulated, covered and altered. The base surface rendered obsolete, unnecessary beyond that of supporting facade and malleable interior space.

Nearly eight years later, a visit to this part of the city reveals the same invisible buildings and structures with new faces. Much that was there in 2002 has given way to remodel storefronts, new tenants or other altered cosmetic change (inevitable in commercially economies). The collective transformation of such districts changes our overall perception of the  city; our memories of the past clouded with surface adaptations.