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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Seoul Goes Underground

Winter has come to Seoul : minus 9 celcius these days.

OH Se-hoon has come to Montreal : Seoul Mayor wants to build an underground city where citizens can walk in any season.

When I first came to Seoul about 20 years ago that's actually the image I had of downtown Seoul : the only place where pedestrians could cross major streets seemed to be those underground arcades and subway stations. But there was no continuity to it - only a collection of more or less messy clusters.

Messy yet lively. Back then, a lot of business happened there. Nowadays, these places look like time capsules roamed by LP or stamp collectors. Bigger underground markets like the one in Banpo, connected to the Express Bus Terminal and subway, are full of life but suffocating with their narrow maze and low ceilings...

But here, OH wants to build a real city, complete with its habitations.

So my first reaction is : why not, but take the time to make something nice and sustainable. Something Seoulites and tourists will feel comfortable in. Not just transit corridors or a soulless shopping mall. Real streets (with signs and a design respectful of the city's culture), real light (there are already systems which actually demultiply sunlight inside buildings), natural air conditioning, consistant biomass, light public transformations, seamless transitions with open air... Not a parallel, underground city, but the foundation for a better Seoul.

And please, not yet another "New Town", not yet another "U city" : technology yes, but invisible.

A fascinating challenge.

Seoul Village 2009

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