Aerial plan illustration courtesy of exinteriordesign.com
It appears the city of Seoul has long had a fascination with "floating" structures along and in the Han River, as the opening of a photo exhibition last week suggests. The newly completed 'floating-islands' project is home to an exhibition, and the 'floating architecture' itself, a long anticipated addition to the cities waterfront in Banpo-dong. Floating or not, upon visiting on the second day of opening, I couldn't help but feel how oddly out of place the buoyed structures appeared- scaled more for the urban eclecticism of Seoul's urban fabric. But even there, the 'architecture' would appear pompous in a display of formalism; over-structured and under self-critical in what was architecturally designed.
Looking back to the 1950's, the waterfront at that time was also doted with floating structures attracting visitors for leisure activities. Then, the yet-to-be tamed Han river was still in it's un-engineered state. With edges soft in vegetation and earth, unlike today's dredged and concrete lined artificial corridor. Yet, the floating structures in the black and white exhibition photos appear reflective of the small boat crafts of the river then- simple wooden fabrications for temporary, seasonal occupations. Perhaps as a reminder of the way river and city co-existed at that time. Today, city dominates river, as the new 'floating island' suggest, regardless of how much the local government wants to claim Han River 'Renaissance'.
Dressed in time with splintering cracks, the aging low-rise apartments of guro-gu have outlived expectations. Today, more than 30 years old, the apartments slated for redevelopment now await termination. Lives of yesterday have moved on to the cities newer residential areas, leaving behind the foundations of Seoul; as a city of beige bedrooms.
In the summer of 1995 I made my way daily past Strahov Stadion going to school. It was a seemingly long walk to the bus stop to catch the only option for public transportation, located at the far side of the stadium from my dorm room. What I didn't know at the time was Strahov is the largest stadium in the world. (How I could not have known that simple fact then, is beyond me to this day). But for me Strahov wasn't a stadium from the outside and it seemed not even of 'architectural' classification. It's daunting presence, as a building, was more of a curiously strange neighborhood, uninviting but alluring at the same time. Back then at street level along its east facing perimeter were restaurants and pubs, as well as a few small specialty shops and markets.
To this day it stands testament to mass appeal. The crowds which it has drawn through the decades may have changed in spectacle event but its form remains as urban monolith, a ghostly, vacant city in its own right.