SPACE Magazine
SPACE Magazine
The Discouraged Dream of Idealists and the Future of Our City: Beyond Big Plans

In the January edition, SPACE focused on Seouls large scale development plan of the Seoul Station Overpass Park, the Plans for Vitalization of Seun Sangga(Sewoon Arcade), and the Mapo Oil Depot, as well as the political implications they have as a means of propaganda. Despite expressed oppositions, the Seoul Station Overpass Park plan pushed forward to open the International Invited Competition, and the results will be announced in May (February issue, SPACE). On 24th February, Seoul Metropolitan Government (SMG) announced the Plans for Urban Revitalization included the Sewoon Arcade. The plan sets out in two phases and the first phase will be completed until 2017 after holding an international competition. Aside from this very hasty movement of SMG, the Beyond Big Plans: Lets reinvent planning (BBP Symposium) which was held from 12th – 15th March, provided a different opportunity to examine the international perspective towards Sewoon Arcade. This event was co-hosted by the International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISOCARP) and the Urban Action Network. Although SMG was the sponsor, the actual planning and execution was done by young Korean city planners active in Europe such as Park Soran, Park Hyeri, Kang Vitnarae and others. Sewoon Arcade was not the only agenda of discussion. The symposium attracted foreign and local pundits on city planning and development to search for an execution strategy for modern urban areas in the era of low growth.
by Shim Youngkyu | photographed by Roh Kyung | materials provided by Seoul Metropolitan Goverment | reporting contributed by student reporter Ko Somi

The Discouraged Dream of Idealists

As widely known, the Sewoon Arcade is a long arcade that extends from Jongno 3-ga to Toegyero 3-ga. It is a large structure that is 50m wide and 1km long. Its construction was completed in 1968 as the first residential-commercial building in the country, and enjoyed popularity as the only total appliances mall at the time, but started its decline in the 1990s. From December 2008, during the administration of the former mayor Oh Sehoon, the project to dismantle the arcade in stages and construct green space began, but in March 2014, Mayor Park Wonsoon decided to keep the arcade without dismantling it. For almost ten years, complex interests of the arcade and the area residents were linked between conservation, redevelopment, and revival. Taking a specific look at the Comprehensive City Renewal Plan announced by the city of Seoul in February, the three-storey walking deck will be reinforced, and the Sewoon Arcade Ga building and the Daerim Arcade, separated by Cheonggyecheon, will be re-connected by a walking bridge. The seven groups of buildings will be divided into two. In phase 1 (Jongno – Sewoon Arcade – Cheonggye/Daerim Arcade) will be activated by remodeling the aforementioned public spaces. For this, an international competition will be open until May. Design will be complete by October, and construction will begin on phase 1 in November, with completion by December of next year. The area is 43,575m2: the deck of the Sewoon Arcade that connects Jongmyo Park to Toegyero near Namsan, and the public space in the surrounding area. The projected budget is 29.6 billion KRW (1.2 billion KRW for design costs), and the jury will be Seung H-Sang (city architect, SMG), Ohn Yeongte (urban regenation project for City of Cheongju), Lim Jaeyong (president, Korea Architect Institute), Kim Junseong (principal, hANd), Roger Riewe (founder, Roger Riewe Architects in Graz), and Adriaan Geuze (founder, West8). The next phase, from Sampung Arcade to Jinyang Arcade, will be implemented after further consultations with the owner and the residents.
Unlike this plan from the city, at the BBP Symposium that took place on the 12th, there was discussion on more fundamental urban renewal. The event took place in three segments: first was Lets reinvent planning!, the second was Sewoon Story, and the third, Learning from Cities. Ahn Changmo, professor, Kyeonggi University, spoke at the second segment, and said that Sewoon Arcade is one of the three icons that symbolize the modernization of Korea along with the Samil Building and Cheonggye Overpass, built in the 5 years since 1967, and pointed out the misinformation and prejudices regarding the Sewoon Arcade. He said: Sewoon Arcade began as an evacuation road that was meant to protect Seoul from bombing, made by Japan which started the Pacific War, and later, as the city became a slum, it was built into a large structure that includes size, artificial ground, street-in-the-air, and roof garden, to symbolize the 20th century. It was a building built as an ideal of a modern former president Park Chung-hee and an architect. He explained that A cutting-edge construction that once included various programmes such as a church, school, indoor golf, and a shopping complex, entered decline as the development of Gangnam began in earnest in the 1970s due to North Korean provocation. He argued that the responsibility for failure of Sewoon Arcade was not the architect but the Cold War system, and that it needs to be observed for multi-level evaluation in the context of urban development in the modern era. Lee Chungkee (professor, University of Seoul) who was the MP of Sewoon Arcade revitalization, said that Sewoon Arcade has industrial potential based on the manufacturing related to printing, publishing, and electronics, from the historical and cultural potential that comes from connecting Jonmyo and Namsan from north to south, and Gwanghwamun and Dongdaemun from east to west; it also has locational potential, in that it crosses major urban roads such as Jongno, Cheonggyecheon, Euljiro, and Toegyero. He presented a plan to operate run various programmes to attract the transient population, a measure to support and refine the existing industrial ecosystem, and a plan to build a multidimensional walking network to connect Jongmyo and Namsan. On the other hand, during the first segment, there was discussion on alternative directions to mass development from a macro perspective, and during the third segments, there were specific cases from other cities.

Platform for Participation, Cooperation, Mediation, and Coordination

To summarize, the BBP Symposiums key words are Participation, Cooperation, Mediation, and Coordination. The greatest discussion was on the platform to have them in. Kees Christiaanse (professor, ETH Zurich and founder, KCAP) proposed that a large project plan must be divided into small plans, and both top-down and bottom-up approaches are needed. He emphasized 30% of urban planning is design, and the remaining 70% was mediation and coordination. Jorg Stollmann (professor, TU Berlin) pointed out that design competition is already an outdated system of urban planning, and emphasized change on small scales and participation and education of the citizens.
Zef Hemel (professor, University of Amsterdam) explained the elastic urban planning under the topic of Beyond Resilience. He pointed out that urban planners use abstract terminology and are separated from reality by using language that ordinary citizens cannot understand. He offered ten effective platforms of urban planning, and according to him, they must be open to invite and accept anyone including participants who can talk with non-experts, and he emphasized the importance of a conversational method that enables feedback. He said that instead of screening all the data or making issues compete, one must read an overarching pattern that cuts through all data by collecting it from one cloud. He emphasized the necessity to the platform of a person, who plays the role of coordination, not as an expert but as a moderator. This calls for meaningful reflection in Korea. The platform that he mentioned is not one system, methodology or design. He pointed out that this is a common mistake amongst urban planners.
In the third segment, Sheng-Ming Wu (architect, Whole+) mentioned Taipei. 44% of all buildings there are over 30 years old, and he introduced a case of re-designing low-level housing. Deventer, in eastern Netherlands, was a case where leveraged investment increased the public and private assets. Andries Geerse (director and urban planner, WeLoveTheCity bv.) said that first off, 100% transparency must be guaranteed, saying, Urban planning must not be used for political purposes, but approached practically for the residents. Secondly, he emphasized the role of the private sector, saying, If in the past the effort was government-led, now, someone else must be able to offer a new initiative.

What to Put in Sewoon Arcade

Specifically, how should the Sewoon Arcade be revitalized and with what programmes? Experts from Korea and abroad proposed a complex program based on manufacturing and crafting. Lee Dongyoun (professor, Korea National University of Arts) interpreted Sewoon Arcade from a dimension of cultural economy. He said, Sewoon Arcade will be a location of uptail where cultural resources lead urban revitalization, and added, for this, the Sewoon Forum was formed, and this venue will be used to discuss Sewoon Arcade by fusing city, architectural, science and technology, and cultural economy; in particular, sound studios, cartoons/webtoons, digital games, crafting culture and technology will be the tools to use as energy for urban revitalization. Hemel proposed that a festival, such as a crafting biennale, should open and be used as an opportunity to hear the citizens opinions.
For three days, through a workshop in which domestic and foreign experts participated, many specific ideas were put forward. The workshop concerned itself with seven topics. Constructive Development Process summarized the lessons of the Sewoon Arcade re-development discussion process. The Chair, Tom Van Geest (urban planner, WeLoveTheCity bv.), emphasized linkage, due to the locational significance of the Sewoon Arcade. He said, It should be a point that connects the horizontal and vertical axes of Seoul, and the programmes inside the building must span the floors and connect with the other floors. Particular attention was made to the roof park where various cultural activities could occur. In Strong Vision & Flexible Strategy, there was confirmation that there was a difference in how Koreans and foreigners perceive Sewoon Arcade, and it was suggested that it should be actively reflected in the ideas to allow the urban organisation of Seoul to survive. Jeoren Dirckx (urban planner, KCAP) argued In order to strengthen location, the subjects of preservation must be assessed and made into a list, and that a different strategy is needed by block, to have multiple factors cross. Finally, in Urban Development for the Many, three scenarios, for status quo, gradual development, and fundamental change, were simulated to see the changes in walking accessibility and network in the parts where the green space or the existing city and industry meet. Milica Bajic-Brkovic (president, ISOCARP) said that the most important attitude is to share information, have the process open to everyone, and secure research funding. Education of the owner, the user, and the local residents, which we have neglected, is also important. Sewoon Forum is a group of about 20 people, which started with the citys lead, from architecture, universities, offices in the Sewoon Arcade, etc. They must gather to establish the foundation and conduct the education so that the Sewoon Arcades programs can be more of a self-starting group rather than being specified.

Long Abandonment and Hasty Execution

It is notable that this event was self-started by the private sector, not led by the government. The planners of the event currently work in the Netherlands as architects, urban planners and researchers, and are studying means of urban development that raises the public value by coordinating the stakeholders and their conflicts, while respecting the value of the everyday residents and the historical dimension of the city. Andries Geerse emphasized: previously, governments led these efforts, but now, like this event, the private sector must be able to offer new initiative. Park Hyeri said from my time in Korea, Ive observed a massive urban development project turn the existing city organisation into a uniform, large-unit shape, the native residents expelled, and the profits of the development channeled to the few, and has made efforts since last February in order to consider new alternatives, persuading and inviting key people from Korea and abroad.
Recently, Seoul has active movements that seek and attempts new methods other than to demolish everything and build new. Efforts to find a method that suits us in alternative development are needed. It is important to construct a platform where mature citizenship and self-starting movement can grow on their own. It is no longer an era where some administrators including a mayor, and one or two urban planners or architects, can draw the large picture and lead everything. The society has already become too complex. Jorick Beijer (partner, Blossity), who summarized the entire workshop, said, The City is no longer a Utopian model, and gradual development is important. A city is not a collection of buildings, but a complex that has many citizens and times. What is worrying is that much like the Seoul Station Overpass Park, the revitalization plan for the Sewoon Arcade is also ignoring some processes and pursuing speed.
Lee Chungkee says that next year is the 50th anniversary of the Sewoon Arcade. He said that Sewoon Arcade is a project that could not find a direction for ten years, and will be more abandoned if left to the private sector; thus, the government must play this role. However, the question persists. Who are the various projects in progress under the citys lead, and the hastily made Sewoon Forum for? It is made by the SMG, as governance for the Sewoon Arcade Revitalization Plan, not by a self-starting initiative. Lee Youngbeom (professor, Kyonggi University) pointed out that the discussion is still focused on the administrator, and cannot really be felt.
These events are not important; the various ideas and opinions need to be boldly implemented in the real projects. Sewoon Arcade is not, as someone said, a space of memory and rewind to merely reminisce on the times past. A self-driven movement is currently insufficient, because there isnt yet shared legitimacy among all the citizens on why, of many products of urbanization, the Sewoon Arcade need to be remembered. It is also not a landmark for somebodys achievement. It is a stage for experiment, on how we can embrace the failed dreams of an idealist of modernization, and how we will pass it on to our successors. Lee Dongyoun said that The Mullae Art Factory is an example where an attempt to revitalize the area by art and culture failed. As the artists moved in, the factories and the natives left, and Sewoon Arcade should not go down this path. However, like a train that has the engine from the movie Snowpiercer, the Sewoon Arcade is rushing towards 2017. It is time to question again where we are going.
no.569 (2015.April) 
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