Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hanok New Town in Seongbuk-dong

Another sign of changing times : a Seongbuk Hanok Village project has been unveiled yesterday : 410 houses and 75,000 square meter in Seongbuk-dong, at the feet of Seoul fortress walls. Delivery expected in 2014, and a second batch of 250 traditional homes could follow in 2018.

One can definitely see a trend and a cultural shift. This somehow reminds me of KAL's luxury hanok-style hotel project in Anguk-dong (see "
Korean Air grounded: Seoul 7 star hotel delayed"). In this part of Seongbuk-2-dong, 92% of existing constructions have reached the required age for a reconstruction. They say that the hanok maeul would be the perfect crown around another national treasure, Simujang (만해한용운심우장), the House of "Manhae", the buddist monk and poet Han Yong-un (1879-1944).

But when you look closely, the project could mean the destruction of a few real hanoks. And to me, this sounds like a smart way of pushing development in a protected area. Of course, local tenants love the concept : all projects have been blocked for a decade, and given the recent craze for hanoks and town houses, they're sure to get a nice profit from this one. Particularly since the new hanoks are presented as "below 4 floor" buildings : I have the feeling that they won't be that traditional (old hanoks seldom had a second floor, except for a few luxury residences in Andong, or a late Joseon building in Deoksugung).

At least there's some progress : instead of the usual "villa / tombstone" dilemma, we're proposed yet another artificial hanok village. Of course, the alternative would be very expensive : removing ugly buildings and restoring the remaining old hanoks.

Times are changing in Seoul, but not that quickly.

Seoul Village 2011

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