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2015_11_04
Seouls New Network Connects with Dong Community Centers
         

 
The Seongdong-gu Majang-dong community centre, designed by Chung Isak (principal of a.co.lab) was the most efficient in itstransformation subject to such a limited budget. The front of the centre was demolished and a folding door was built, along with a ramp for the disabled and a childrens play area on one side of the public service centre.
 
The Chinese character dong () is a combination of the words for water () and same (), meaning a community that shares the same well. The origins of dong are thought to be the Samcheong-dong Office, which blocked all outsiders from the community well as a measure to prevent the spreading of cholera in 1920 (refer to Metropolis: the Birth of Seoul). In 1949 Koreas first Local Government Act was established, with the dong committee confirmed as a local government establishment. This was primarily due to the rapid industrialization experienced by Korea in the 1970s, which prompted the high movement of the population, which required much administrative power. The dong was an efficient system, governing large areas through little manpower and resources, but with the decrease in population mobility and the advancement of data communication technology, dong became slowly obsolete. Its name changed from The Government of the People to the Community Center, and many dong offices were merged with one another, while others became resident education facilities, or welfare and education facilities. Currently, the dong community center is an undetermined space, with both the characteristics of a local government organization and of an administrative organization. reported by Shim Youngkyu 

An Open Space that Became a New Base
 
The Dong community centre is an administrative system unique to Korea, now with a decreasing power, but it still retains a number of possibilities as it is an aspect of infrastructure that has rooted itself across various areas. On 22 July, Park Wonsoon (the mayor, Seoul Metropolitan Government) announced a new concept for welfare that finds its people, and laid out his plans to change the existing dong offices into dong community centres that find their people. At the planning stage, the SMG carried out projects from March onwards in the Local Autonomy Administration Division, the Seoul Design Foundation, and the Urban Space Improvement of SMG. The plan was initially to carry out demonstration projects in four areas this year, but it was expanded to 13 gus and 80 dongs as the demonstration projects. This is to provide working environments for 800 newly selected welfare related government employees and 106 visiting nurses. The SMG stated that its plan is to designate the remodeled community centre as a welfare base, and to modify all 423 dongs by 2018. In other words, the existing undetermined space, which had factors of variability, will now be newly designed and have its characteristics changed into a welfare facility, and will become the centre of Park Woon soons welfare concept, which will even support the towns ecological system, currently run by residents. The remodeling has also encouraged the participation of public architects, with the aim of expanding the dong not only for welfare, but also as a place that serves as the centre of communication in the town. The SMG spent a total of 5.6 billion KRW on the design and construction of the over 80 community centres, each costing 50 million KRW. The four gus (Sungdong, Seungbuk, Dobong, Geumchun) of the 13 autonomous districts for the demonstration projects remodeled 61 community centres, and the remaining nine gus (Jongro, Nowon, Eunpyeong, Seodaemun, Mapo, Yanchun, Guro, Dongjak, Gangdong) remodeled a total of 19 community centers. On April, those who were scheduled to participate in the demonstration projects, Wee Jinbok (principal, Urban Intensity Architects), Shin Seungsoo (principal, Design Group Oz), Kim Changgyun (principal, UTAA), along with former coordinators Kim Chanjoong (principal, The_System Lab), and Kim Incheurl (principal, Archium), became the overall MPs for each autonomous district. 
 
Eye-Catching Accomplishments
 
Out of the 150 public architects in Korea, approximately 50 architects, and 30 further architects recommended by the MPs, participated in the demonstration projects. The SMGs public architect system began in April 2012, and these architects participated in various public projects, but never on such a large-scale. It is the network based on the urban area that makes the density of the city possible, and architects are responsible for creating a progressive development for the citys network infrastructure. Kim Changjoong stated, Architects have changed the factors dictating the layout of each of the small sized cities, and have lead the local community on new directions and change for the overall network of cities. It is sigificant that we are developing a new model of infrastructure for local life, and one that works efficiently.
 
Of the 73 centres, each only cost 8 million KRW for remodeling and took only 50 days to redevelop them into unique new centres. Wee Jinbok who was the MP for Geumchun-gu changed the Doksan 3-dong center into the Doksan Theater. It wasnt a simple remodeling of the space, but he had created a new programme as well. The space used to be empty by the evening, but now it transforms into a local theatre after sundown. Wee had noticed that there werent many cultural facilities in the area, and fortunately the extra budget was provided by Geumchun-gu. On the topic of the centre he reflected that Paradoxically, I found the possibility of the underused space not in the space itself but time. In the evenings and weekends, the space can be used as a music room, study room, multi-cultural room, or a green market, and it will serve as a space that provides what the community needs.
The Seongdong-gu Majang-dong community centre (designed by Chung Isak, principal of a.co.lab) was the most efficient 
in its transformation subject to such a limited budget. The front of the centre was demolished and a folding door was built, along with a ramp for the disabled and a childrens play area on one side of the public service centre. It made people feel like they were in a completely different place, but such a metamorphosis did not require a great deal of money. Oregon pine plywood, which is an easy to use and a cost-efficient material, was used for the remodeling, and the detailed design reduced labour costs and the waste of materials. 
 
The Seongbuk-gu Wolgok 1-dongs community centre (designed by Kim Homin, principal of poly.m.ur) is also eye-catching. From the outside, it doesnt look like it has changed all that much, but the space for the residents was largely expanded, and it feels very different due to its new simple design. Kim Changgyun who was the MP for Seongdong-gu, changed the underused spaces of the centers into community and welfare spaces. Lobbies, basements and other such spaces were overhauled into new spaces, and display a standard which will exemplify to the success of these projects. 

Wee Jinbok (principal, Urban Intensity Architects) who was the MP for Geumchun-gu changed the Doksan 3-dong center into the Doksan Theater. It wasnt a simple remodeling of the space, but he had created a new programme as well. 
 
Old System, Rash Management 
 
Aside from all of these encouraging results, a number of problems have arisen, due to 73 architects participating all at once without a proper established system, and an accelerated management schedule. The designs began in mid-April to mid-May, the construction was completed by 15 June, in order for the remodeled centres to be opened only a few days later on 20 June. The scheduled was postponed, and the opening ceremony was pushed back to early July, and many of the completions of the centres were late. It is difficult to successfully carry out such projects, with planning costs of 8 million KRW and a construction cost of 42 million KRW, which leads to outside party costs. The actual budget for construction is only about 20–30 million KRW, excluding the funds needed for furniture and other related factors, which is a very small budget. There are discussions concerning the project that reflect upon the architects as almost like volunteer workers. Kang Jungeun (principal, every architects), who is the MP of Seongbuk-gu exclaimed, With the exception of Geumchun-gu and Seongdong-gu, every other district received an extremely tight budget. The schedule of the projects was also very limited, which meant there was very little time for the participating architects and MPs to fully analyze the areas, so their roles were limited. There are also criticisms arising from the fact that with such a hurried schedule and a tight budget, the plans to remodel all community centres by 2018 is an impossible task. 
 
The largest problem is the top-down approach. Some community centres were recently repaired or did not require remodeling, but all were included as a matter of course as part of the project. This why is some centres showed much enthusiasm towards the project, and some did not show as much. The MPs even point out a problem: the same portion of the budget was distributed to each centre, when different centres have different demands or situations from each other. One MP stated, The SMG rushed the project and didnt think too deeply about the challenges posed to administration. Also, the dongs saw architects as mere problem solvers or subcontractors. This is because there was no common understanding established on why the project must be carried out in the first place. 
 
When an Architect Meets Administration 

 
The Seongbuk-gu Wolgok 1-dongs community centre, designed by Kim Homin (principal of poly.m.ur) is also eye-catching. From the outside, it doesnt look like it has changed all that much, but the space for the residents was largely expanded, and it feels very different due to its new simple design.
 
This project was the first large-scale opportunity for architects of various spectrums to meet with the administration. Kim Taehyung (director-general, Urban Space Improvement of SMG) stated, We questioned how much architecture can enter within the boundaries of administration. Kim Chanjoong explained that The project was a chance to prove that improving the infrastructure of small communities is more efficient than the existing method of improving areas on a large-scale. We began the project with a sense of responsibility, for it was an opportunity for architects to meet with the administration. 
After the opening ceremony in July, the results of the opened 73 centres were clearly different. Some centres were carefully remodeled into unique spaces, while others did not even begin a proper remodeling process, with only changes ot the furniture or the interior. Their success or failure relied upon how much the architects and administration trusted each other. The administrations method of communication is different from that of the architect. They use a different vocabulary and have such different intentions. The administration cannot quantitatively analyze new value created by architects, so it is difficult for them to establish the basis for additional funding. Due to auditing, government employees cannot create special provisions, or make exceptions on the existing methods. As the project progresses, it led to more conflict. Unexpected events happen at the worksite, more needs emerge, and the work scope becomes wider. Looking at the situation, it might feel difficult and unfair from the perspective of the architect, but from the perspective of a government employee or administration, they might feel that despite their generosity, the architects seem only to be complaining. Kim Chanjoong suggested that The system was definitely lacking. This year was for demonstration projects so a better system could be developed, and there were attempts made to correct flaws. Therefore, a close analysis on what worked and what did not work is needed to provide a better system for future projects. An outside survey to evaluate the changes to each site is necessary, and this needs to be analyzed closely. When a good example of the remodeling project is displayed to the public, their perceptions on the projects will change, which will lead to a change in perceptions of the administration. Kim Changgyun stated, A public architect shouldnt only be a term, but they should actually work on at least one or two public projects per year. Kim Chanjoong remarked upon this state of affairs, stating that A public project is difficult to complete without the sense of responsibility.
 
The SMG Creating a New Network
 
The dong community centres that finds their people project had 10 centres in Geumchun-gu, 14 in Seongdong-gu, 19 in Seongbuk-gu, 13 in Dobong-gu open in three months. Next year, 200 centres are scheduled for completion, 140 in 2017, and by 2018, a total of 423 centres are scheduled for remodelling. The reason why the remodeling projects were completed on such a tight schedule and budget is because of the existing urban network system of dong offices, and, paradoxically, to the fact that architects utilized point organization to participate in a top-down approach. However, the methods that will be used from now on need to be subject to a newly developed system. Since the schedule and budget is so tight, unnecessary documents must be minimized, and contracts must be simplified, considering the fact that public projects have public architects with little experience and young architects. 
A thorough analysis ahead of time is needed as well. Guideline need to be created so that a standardized method can be established, and a compatible plan for the areas demand can be created, along with a project model that is closely attached to the lives of the community. The plans that were scheduled for a launch this year, such as open-doors for 24 hours, universal design application, and the residents participation workshop, did not come to fruition. This is because there is enough time given to the development foundation and for the MPs to fully analyse and test out their plans. Architects also must develop creative programmes in the towns, such as a unique local library, or public programmes. 
 
Lastly, the role of the development foundation must be expanded. The projects were meaningful, but they also left much discontent and problems. The development foundation is where the architect and administration communicate with each other. One of the participating architects pointed out, There was a lack of understanding and communication between the administrations, and with the residents. However, the role of the development foundation fell short. Kim Taehyung stated, The development foundations role is to work together with the local administration to make the administration understand the situation of the architects. From this point on, we will propose various suggestions so that problems can be solved from the perspective of the architect. The term design supervision was used for the first time in a public project contract, during this project, and although it still fell short, the construction budget was increased, in addition to the simplification and submission of the contract. Jeong Ahseon (researcher, Urban Space Improvement of SMG) explained, We are assessing how we can change the methods of proposing architects and construction companies, the simplification of contracts, and the boundaries of tasks between dongs, along with changing the management of the public architect system.
 
Until this point, urban development was carried out through a process of simply creating a space and then improving its infrastructure. However, the contents of a space are becoming more and more important. Software that can change the perceptions of people towards a space needs to be further developed. This is why not only the community centres are important, but the further establishment of second and third networks is also important. Currently, there are various network facilities such as public daycare centres, community security centres, and elementary/middle/high schools. It will be a chance for young architects to have a platform where they can freely work, expand the number of public architects, and through such changes, the quality of public architecture will increase, and the perceptions of people on architecture will also be able to change. 
 
 
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no.575 (2015.October) 
 
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