Sewoon Sangga/ Fallacy on Social Separator
For a particular long period of time, the urban fabric of Seoul, same as those of other Asian cities and different from that of the European countries, had been composed of timber structures which were highly susceptible to the ravages of fire. During their years of colony, the Japanese Empire created a fire-containment gap within the fabric the city between Jongmyo and Toegyero, after seeing how the Japanese timber cities were destroyed by Allied bombings. The fire-containment gap was 50 m wide and 1 km long (there are sayings that it was several kilometers long) and was created by removing a corridor and buildings along the axis, during the Pacific War. Other than being used to be left against Allied Forces’ aerial attack, the gap also served a purpose of preventing any fire from jumping from one district to another, in order to minimise the loss of the city in case of fires. After the war, the urban cut gradually resulted in an problematic informal settlement where it became a “magnet for the thousands of war refugees, orphans and the homeless”, which was particularly hurtful to Seoul as” a city aspiring for a rebirth” at that time (Docomomo, 2014). In order to put the development of the district thus the city back into order, and to achieve a more efficient use of space and resources, the government of president Park Chung-hee requested a construction that filled in the 1 km long former fire-containment gap with an answer to “the most contemporary notions of urban mixed-use programming” such as housing and commercial (Docomomo, 2014). The project, carried out by architect Kim Swoo-Geun, consisted of four megastructure blocks with a three-story high commercial-retail arcade and four stories of housing on top, later known as the Sewoon Arcade (also know as Seun Sangga).
Concerning the impact of such large blocks bisecting four main roads, different design principles were set to facilitate the urban connection. For instance, an access road or traffic road was set in the middle of the block. Apart from traffic consideration, based on the relationship with the adjacent areas – traditional main streets like Jongro and Choongmooro, and traditional markets like Gwang-Jang, Dong Daemunm respective new pedestrian axis was established. Regarding the upper level, the one-kilometer-long pedestrian walkway should be provided to vitalize the commercial centre on the artificial deck level (Yoon, 1997).
As a result, despite the dominance of the megastructure, the Seun Sangga, according to local feedbacks, had been helpful in connecting different districts of the urban context in the district.
As a set of multiple programming building blocks that favoured residential and commercial uses, the Seun Sangga created an image or even an insight of a high-class living at that period of time. With the application of multiple cutting edge technologies such as glass lifts and luxurious building materials, the blocks were able to attract citizens, especially the more privileged ones, to move in. This encouraged communication and connection between the two different classes in the community, thus providing better job opportunities which could then lead to a growth in the economy and productivity of the country as a whole. This can also be referred back to the hope of rebirth of the country after various wars and the aggressive approach taken by the government at that time to deal with the problem associated with wars and rapid growth in population, especially in Seoul.
15.Sewoon Arcade, The Country’S First Multi-Purpose Apartment. (2013, October 11). Retrieved from http://english.seoul.go.kr/15-sewoon-arcade-countrys-first-multi-purpose-apartment/
Docomomo. (2014). Proposal for the 13th Docomomo International Conference Workshop: Sewoon Arcade. Docomomo.