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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Revamping Seun Sangga - If Possible Without Vampirizing The Area

Seoul city presented yesterday* more details about the revamping of Seun Sangga I recently mentioned in a focus on Seoul urban revitalization projects (see the 'reviving neighborhood' section of "Diagonal crossings, High Lines, and Business Verticals (how pedestrians and businesses remodel Seoul... and vice-versa)").

Spared from total destruction in 2009, when only its Northernmost section (facing Jongmyo) was cut to build the Seun Greenway Park**, Kim Swoo-geun's liner shall undergo two waves of renovation by 2016:
  • The Northern half first between Jong-ro and Eulji-ro: the Seun Sangga building proper (Jongno 3-ga, Jongno 4-ga, Jangsa-dong), and on the other side of Cheonggyecheon, Cheonggye Sangga and Daelim Sangga (Sallim-dong, Euljiro 4-ga)
  • Then the Southern half, between Eulji-ro and Toegye-ro (Euljiro 4-ga, Inhyeondong 2-ga, Chungmuro 4-ga)

The most spectacular modification is the prolongation of the cruise ship's upper deck all along the bar, meaning new structures over the streets, including here over Cheonggyecheon:

I understand the logic, restoring the original bridge with a continuous promenade very much like the Seoul Skyway (that's the latest name of Seoul Station 7017 Project - see "Seoul Station Elevated Park (Seoul Station Project 7017? The Seoul Vine?) - An Update", and the 7 consortia selected on

But this elevated walkway's a bit bulky. Do we have to sacrifice street levels all the time? And of all places, over Cheonggyecheon, the symbol of the removal of massive elevated structures?

I'm less interested in this crystallization of Kim Swoo-geun's bar than in its integration in a revitalized urbanscape. The project pays, as it should, a lot of importance to the building's sides... even if, of course, that is just an alibi to relaunch the profitable redevelopment of the low-rise maze surrounding Seun Sangga. 

Well. I neither expected nor wanted that area to be totally preserved, because it is neither sustainable, nor safe (industrial pollution, poor fire protection...).

And I'm okay with the principle of docking the ship to its neighborhood with much lighter footbridges. Yet in this rendering, it looks as if Seun Sangga will be flanked by two canal-less Songdo Canal Walk:

Hardly better than the New York High Line at Chelsea Market, where I was the other day:

I believe there is room for improvement from this project. For instance, I would ban cars from the lower level, and ask for a mandatory 'slope' in the future adjacent buildings, for example through terraced buildings, thus preventing the creation of dark 'canyons' similar to Cheonggyecheon before its renovation:

The slopes would also contrast with the Seun Sangga's verticality, highlighting the landmark instead of mirroring it, but flattening it at the same time to reduce its towering effect.

Good to know the New Town-ish project of the mid noughties has been dumped. I didn't want the neighborhood to be just filled with new towers, like what's happening around Sejongno. We already lost Pimatgol's alleyways, now we must keep some of the charm of this messy maze. It will certainly make the promenade more enjoyable.

And if we could avoid another giant leap for the gentrification of Jongno-gu...

Seoul Village 2015
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* see on YouTube "세운상가 재생계획 기자설명회":  
** see "No cars on Gwanghwamun Square for New Year's Day"

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Seoul to tap into vacant homes pool

If there's no shortage of residences in Seoul, the city wants to make rents more affordable for low income households, and to reduce the number of vacant homes.

Seoul is full of 'villas' on the verge of collapse. Landlords don't want to invest in renovations for residences that have little potential, and they are afraid to take tenants, because the only ones who'll accept to move in are the weakest and the most likely to fail.

The city proposes to intervene at both ends by supporting the renovation, and by taking part in the recruitment of residents. Tenants will pay 80% of the market price, and enjoy stability through a 6 year contract, landlords will have their tenants vetted by the district office, and receive money for 50% of the remodeling cost, up to KRW 20M (homes have to have been vacant for more than 6 month). At the core of the system, dedicated social enterprises, cooperatives, and non-profit organizations - light structures Seoul has been advocating for years. Korea Social Investment will also provide affordable loans to landlords.

Beyond these one-to-one measures, I think Korea should promote housing cooperatives through regulations that ensure their sustainability. If France's 'co-propriete' system is far from perfect, coops are bound to maintain and to renovate on a regular basis, which also encourages sounder building practices in the first place. Authorities and watchdogs try to help the system remains transparent and fair, and bad management less pervasive.

There's a fantastic room for improvement for many Seoul neighborhoods covered with 3-to-5-story condos that are more affordable than apartments, but often very poorly maintained. 

Seoul Village 2015
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Sunday, February 1, 2015

'Guisin-dong' (free ebook)

Here's a small gift for you: 'Guisin-dong', a short fiction I wrote a couple of years ago (part of my collection of  Seoul 'dragedies' in English).

Guisin-dong is not the kind of Seoul neighborhood you want to visit, but now you can download it for free, by clicking right here: Guisindong2012StephaneMOT.

Any comments and critics are welcome (e.g. on this site, on the Facebook page, on Amazon...).

NEW - now also free on Google Play Books.

Seoul Village 2015
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NB: also on dragedies,

books, movies, music