Monday, February 14, 2011

Sinchon reloaded - Sinchon Global Zone

Sinchon area has it all, but clearly lacks some consistency. As local authorities unveil a new KRW 7.5 bn plan to redesign it, it seems high time to get the big picture and to make sure they'll get it right.

1) Sinchon can leverage on unique assets...

- Korea's biggest education hub, with Yonsei University (N), Hongik University (W), Ewha University (NE), and Seogang University (S) within a very short radius, and Myeongji University (NW) not much further afield. If Edae and Hongdae areas have stronger personnalities because they are more clearly defined around one "major" (Ehwa being a women's university and Hongik specialized in creative studies), Sinchon is a more central and neutral "battlefield", and less dominated by Yonsei.

- A strategic crossroads connected with major business hubs (downtown, Yongsan, Yeouido, and the
DMC) - Sinchon Rotary, at the intersection between Changcheon-dong, Donggyo-dong, and Nogosan-dong :
. Sinchon-ro : Eastwards towards Seodaemun and downtown, and Westwards towards Seogang Bridge / Yeouido or Sangam / DMC.
. Yonsei-ro : Northwards towards the University and Seongsandae-ro
. Seogang-ro : Southwards towards Yongsan via Gongdeok

2) ... but structural problems need to be fixed...

- Two strategic stations (on Subway Line 2 and Gyeonghui Line, Seoul's oldest railway station) share the same name "Sinchon Station" with entrances less than 500 m apart, but they are not even connected...

- Sinchon Rotary is as lamely designed for humans as it is for vehicles, and the dialogue between its Northern and Southern halves more than poor. Unsurprisingly, they belong to different districts (respectively Seodaemun-gu and Mapo-gu). It's not a total train wreck, but you can feel the wasted space and unoptimized urbanism.

- Yonsei-ro is often saturated : the only passage under the railway, in front of Yonsei's main gate, creates a massive bottleneck, particularly since on the other side, the gigantic mass of the university and Ansan offers no alternative to Seongsandae-ro, a major West-East axis supporting the bulk of Seoul's boom in its Northwestern quarter.

3) ... and if major changes have been initiated...

- Local authorities intend to transform Sinchon into a cultural/education/commerce hub. The masterplan centers on Nogosan-dong, Mapo-gu (280,000 sqm) and Daehyeon-dong, Seodaemun-gu (750,000 sqm), stretching all the way to the mouth of Yeonhui-ro. It seems to interconnect more seamlessly Sinchon with Hongdae and Ewha :

- Sinchon lies at the center of the Light Railway Transit system that will connect, by 2017-2018, Unpyeong-gu with Seodaemun-gu, Mapo-gu, and Yeongdeungpo-gu (see "
Subway news : Sillim line, Line 3..."). I presume local authorities will merge this third Sinchon Station with the two existing ones - if not, something is rotten in the state of Seoul !

4) ... local authorities must reach even further... and out to each other

- Speaking of a education, commerce and culture hub is one thing, succeeding another one. You don't stimulate culture by decree, and Sinchon needs more than a new landmark or some cosmetic changes on one existing street. Solutions should fluidify the whole neighborhood. Local services and commerces also need a boost : even with the Hyundai Department Store / Uplex and Sinchon Migliore / Sinchon Station complex, the area doesn't really reaches its full potential. It even lags behind Hongdae in the eateries' department.

- Mapo-gu and Seodaemun-gu need to work closely together, to share the same strategic vision, and to communicate consistently. We already had a similar, but more Seodaemun-gu-centered, project exactly one year ago featuring Sinchon as a "University-based Tourism City" ("대학기반 관광 도시"):

- This new masterplan also falls short of tackling the Yonsei-ro bottleneck issue. Ideally, the Gyeonghui Line should be buried and covered with a park, just like the nearby Yongsan Line (at Yeonnam-dong).

To be continued...
Seoul Village 2011

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