Monday, June 7, 2010

Pangyo from scratch to crash

Picture this : you're given the opportunity to build from scratch a new town in a green valley with the benediction of the State. Not many existing buildings, essentially a mattress of plastic green houses ("vinyl houses" in good Korean).

This time, we can't get it wrong, can we ?

Yes, we can : 20+ storey-buildings ruining the landscape, colorful tubes of elevated roads snakingly copulating in mid-air, probably about to lay eggs for more baby concrete Cheonggyecheons, and even in front of the newly completed town houses, a tall commercial center destroying the only low rise area. Of course, no subway in this section of the new town.

Welcome to Pangyo New Town.

Or rather West Pangyo, because this New Town has been built on both sides of Highway 1 / Gyeongbu Expressway, an urban landmark as graceful and efficient as the Berlin Wall in the late 60s.

Technically, Pangyo New Town is not a new town but a part of Bundang, an Older New Town, but also a 'gu' of Seongnam city. I remember the construction of that area during the 90s, passing by fields of cranes each time I travelled South, watching Bundang rise up like in a Sim City game on steroids. Every now and then I would have a closer look, and one day the great concrete shell became full of people who seemed to have been living there for decades. That was it.

The Westernmost part of Pangyo hasn't reached that stage yet. Many people have already moved in, and the first services are opening, but many lots remain bare and the sales for low rise sections are only starting these days. A few months from now the place will very much more resemble other Korean cityscapes, a bit greener, but with the usual eyesores ruining natural landmarks. Burying the traffic, even by doubling the existing highways before removing them, wouldn't have cost that much more and would have completely changed the whole story. Forever.

Building towers and elevated roads when you have the possibility to avoid them is simply criminal. Building a New Town around them plainly stupid.

Seoul Village 2010

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