SPACE Magazine
SPACE Magazine
Common People’s Seoul, Past and Present: ‘Northeastern Seoul: From Crop Fields to Forest of Apartments’

Images courtesy of Seoul Museum of History
Installation view of an exhibition ‘Northeastern Seoul: From Crop Fields to a Forest of Apartments’


Compared to ‘Gangnam’ and ‘Gangbuk’, the term ‘Northeastern Seoul’ is not that familiar. The areas from the northeast Hanyang wall to the Bukhansan Mountain and Dobongsan Mountain were Donggyo and Bukgyo and there were farms and fields in these areas until the early 20th century, but since the Japanese colonial era, they have been changing rapidly with the construction of railroads and the expansion of Seoul. The exhibition of the Seoul Museum of History, entitled ‘Northeastern Seoul: From Crop Fields to Forest of Apartments’ illuminates the present conditions of the areas of Gangbuk-gu, Dobong-gu, Nowon-gu and Jungnang-gu, all of which are the northeastern part of Seoul.
The exhibition has two chapters, ‘The Overview of Northeastern Seoul’, showing the layers of time, and ‘Twenty spots of the Northeastern Seoul’, focusing on selected spaces.
On the walls of the exhibition rooms are covered in important occasions and places that are introduced according to a time frame, so it is a good opportunity to take a look at the history of the region from the Joseon dynasty onwards. In the middle of the room, there are 20 exhibition towers according to different keywords, such as Gyeongseong Imperial University, Sanggye Jugong Apartment and Changdong station. Exhibition towers awake a certain degree of nostalgia because they not only display texts and photographs but also real products such as an old version of Samyang-ramen, which contain memories of the semi-industrial district.
Walking along the plane map at a scale of 1:600 helps visitors better understand major buildings and the space around intuitively. Sanggye Jugong Apartment’s 1:500 scale model hangs from the ceiling of the room, drawing one’s attention, and a stereograph on the wall enables visitors to experience the space of Seoul, which is the veritable forest of apartments. However, when considering the title of the exhibition, the quantity and quality of apartment models and drawing materials is insufficient. The Seoul Museum of History is doing a serial exhibition on selected areas in Seoul chronologically and this one is held in this context, so it covers the history of the region in a comprehensive manner. This is why the exhibition density is not quite adequate to draw out the discourses on architecture and a city that is now a forest of apartments. ‘The exhibition was planned with great affection for this region, whose history goes hand in hand with changes made to Seoul as the residential area of ordinary citizens’, said Kim Jaegyeong (curator, Seoul Museum of History). That is probably why this area, which is frequently belittled as a place stuffed with apartments and Hagwons harbours unique Korean characteristics and represents both our modern history and the actuality of the Seoul city in which we live. The exhibition ends on Mar. 5. <by Kim Narae>


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