Sewoon Sangga (1960-1966)/ 5. Commission of the Idealistic World
In the 1960s, the Sewoon (Seun) Sangga redevelopment project had received two influential proposed design schemes. One of which was proposed by the Joong-gu district office to preserve a 20m main street with buildings on both sides.
Fig.1 Proposal by Joong-gu district office
Skeptical about the mentioned proposal, the municipal officals in charge critised it for firstly, the development of the 15 metres wide buildings on both sides of the road with the elimination of the 50 metres wide planned road could have adversely affected the (existing) merchants and shops who were running their commercial activities there originally and were expecting benefits from such location; and secondly, when the new buildings were to be developed in a density as high as the one proposed in the scheme, the 20 metres wide road would be barely sufficient to accommodate the needs for and from the building blocks on the two sides.
Established with the financial assistance of the Asia Foundation, Housing and Urban Development Planning Institute (HURPI) was set up at that time in Korea. Under the direct control of the Korean Ministry of Construction, the Institute conducted researches mainly on the country’s urban housing and planning. Together with several other local Korean professionals from the Institute, Oswald Nagler, who was an American expert in urban planning, began researching Korea’s urbanisation as consulted by Mayor of Seoul, Kim Hyeun-Ok, who was not totally satisfied with the previous scheme proposed by the Joong-gu district office, to introduce more global perspectives and new foreign philosophies. Oswald Nagler, upon the request regarding the problematic site, suggested developing 20 metres wide buildings (in comparison to the 15m wide previously suggested) in the centre of a 50 metres wide road, whilst preserving a 15 metres wide road on each side of the buildings. This was a total reverse of the scheme suggested by the Joong-gu district office where the street (road) was the more dominant feature in between the buildings. In Nagler’s scheme, eight independent buildings were included in the development, i.e. roughly one building in each block. However, the Seoul government officials thought such scheme would create too much empty space within the developing site, and that it would also require much higher construction costs, which might not be favourable especially to the post war Korea. And to the eyes of the government of the city, both of the schemes had significant and sensitive issues which made it difficult for them to decide which option to work with.
Fig.2 Proposal by Oswald Nagler
In mid-July 1966, mayor of Seoul Kim Hyun-Ok consulted with the returning Korean architect Kim Swoo-Geun about the redevelopment of the Jongro-Puldong area. Not totally convinced and satisfied by the two previous schemes, the Mayor was attracted bythe latest contemporary trends of architecture in developed countries introduced by Kim. It was believe that during the consultation Kim had brought up the characteristics of Le Corbusier’s project in Marseilles and the concept of “streets in the air” of a multi-level city, originated in Britain. In comparison to Nagler’s scheme, Kim claimed that his proposal ensured greater density and could bring higher economical and spatial efficiency to the redeveloping site. The architect Kim was visioning an architecture that would create a new modern Korea, whilst the Mayor, on the other hand, focus more at a smaller level on just the city Seoul to develop it as an ideal city. Gratified by the fact that such an idealistic development project could be realised especially within his tenure, the Mayor commissioned the project, which had high progressive monumental values, to the Korean Engineering Consulting Corporation, which gradually led to the completion of the series of megastructure complexes in the Seun Sangga.
Ahn, Chang Mo. (1966). Fifty Years of Korean Modern Architecture. Jaewon Press Co.
Jung, In-Kuk. (1966). “Symposium: The Present Condition and Future Prospect of Korean Architecture”. Architecture, June 1966 issue.
Institute of Seoul studies. (1998). ‘96 Seoul Studies International Symposium, The Modernization and Urban Development in Eastern Three Countries”.