Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Dream Bridge to nowhere?

According to DongA Ilbo ("Building a landmark pedestrian bridge" - 20110720), Seoul authorities want to link Apgujeong with Seoul Forest via a new pedestrian and bicycle bridge over the Han river.

Seongsu-dong (Seongdong-gu) and Apgujeong-dong (Gangnam-gu) are already connected through the Seongsu Bridge, but this doomed structure (it collapsed in 1994) was rebuilt at a time when humans and bicycles were not priorities. Hangang riversides have since grown parks and bike lanes, and prolonging the Jungnangcheon riversides to the South makes sense... but the operation looks like yet another gift from City Hall to Gangnam speculators.

Apgujeong marked the triumph of the 'apateu' model: the Park Chung-hee government partly sponsored the moving of part of the country's elite to the newly erected apartment blocks fourty years ago, and all of a sudden the general public, unaware of the trick, reconsidered apartment blocks as a symbol of success. Before, people saw them as soulless dwellings for the masses. The trick also radically changed the image of Gangnam, a land recently claimed over rice paddies that Gangbuk elites despised. After that, all 'nouveaux riches' started to migrate South, and all Seoulites to embrace the 'apateu' system.

Even now, Apgujeong-dong remains the epitome of Gangnam bling. Commoners, who already found it hard to swallow that these blocks had more or less privatized the accesses to Hangang riversides, reacted vehemently when the city authorized the replacement of this old generation of apartments with 50-story-high blocks (the only way owners could expect fat profits from the sale of their already bubble-blown properties). Now this: a KRW 100 bn bridge financed 50% by the city and 50% by the same local residents?

I don't see this "Dream Bridge" being built, unless there's a radical change in Apgujeong-dong redevelopment plans:
- covering Olympic Expressway
- opening the new and improved waterfront to bikes and pedestrians from all sides
- public infrastructures and mixed use of land instead of a high end residential ghetto

More likely, Seoul will find a compromise and ask for big concessions from land owners if they want to grow higher than 30 stories.

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