Urban fabric and Economic development – Sukhbaatar Square (III) (1990-2000 and beyond) – Establishment of a Central Business District and the changing symbolism of the Sukhbaatar Area

Under privatization, developers and foreign investors began to compete for profitable locations in the city centre. The Sukhbaatar area naturally became the prime location where headquarters and offices were set up. The key socio-political role of the Sukhbaatar Square in the previous socialist era turned it into the icon of the city, represents the identity of Ulaanbaatar. Its proximity to the Peace Avenue, the main artery of the city, ensures accessibility. The Sukhbaatar Square was the traditional civic square, where the Government Building was located. These attributes directed to the establishment of the Central Business District in the Sukhbaatar area. Once again, the Square became the central core of the city’s development, with a new commercial programme. (Fig.1)

Fig.1 Sukhbaatar District map highlighting key buildings in the area, Real Estate Report 2014, Mongolia Properties.
Fig.1 Sukhbaatar District map highlighting key buildings in the area, Real Estate Report 2014, Mongolia Properties.

From 1990-2000, rapid commercialization took place in the Sukhbaatar area. A research was conducted in 2006 To investigate the changes in land use of the Sukhbaatar area from 1990-2002. The immediate surroundings of the Sukhbaatar Square remained as the administrative centre. The central government institutions constituted 2.4% and 3.5% of the area in 1990 and 2002 respectively. In 1990, the commercial sector (hotel, restaurants, bars, and banks) took up 1.5% of the land in the area. In 2002, the number jumped to 3.6%, with the emergence of new types of land use for private companies and trade. (Fig.2) In addition, a good number of the ground floors in residential buildings were converted to retail spaces and restaurants. Apart from the government buildings and headquarters of trade and service companies, the Central Business District was further enriched by a collection of buildings with multiple programmes – diplomatic and international organizations, ministries, state universities, research institutes, theatres, and museums. [1]

Fig. 2 The land use types and percentages in Ulaanbaatar, 1990 and 2002.
Fig. 2 The land use types and percentages in Ulaanbaatar, 1990 and 2002.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Towards the millennium, private developers and construction companies dominated in the commercial real estate development (while the government focused on the housing sector). As local and foreign investors tried to compete for a spot close to Sukhbaatar Square, luxurious mix-used towers rose to give new identity to the area. Central Tower completed in 2010 and the iconic Blue Sky Tower opened in 2011 were major projects around the Square by private property developers MCS Property and Chono Properties. (Fig.3) Shangri-La hotel mixed-use tower opened in 2015 was a project in collaboration with the Hong Kong- based company Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts. [2] These tall glass and steel structures shaped the new symbolism of the city – transparency and openness. [3]

Fig. 3 Blue Sky Tower and the Sukhbaatar Square.
Fig. 3 Blue Sky Tower and the Sukhbaatar Square.

From the Choibalsan rule (1948-1952) to the democratic transition (1990-2000), the symbolism of the urban fabric in Ulaanbaatar shifted from purely political to a mix of representations, with an increasing importance of economic values. Back in the communist era, the urban fabric was more associated with politics. Soviet-style urban plans and architecture were utilized to establish and reinforce the foreign power and ideals imposed onto the city. The Sukhbaatar Square was a political centre for the celebration of the communist party. In contrast, from 1990-2000, economic transitions dominated the city. Urban constructions were driven by the rising demand for new buildings, for the rising business sector. The Square was converted to an administrative and commercial centre. The democratic ideals were delivered through subtle modifications of the Parliament Building and the introduction of Chinggis Khan as a national symbol. The retention of Soviet monuments and naming was accounted by the lack of resources in the transition period, but also an open attitude to the past.[4] From 2000 onwards, new architecture was built to represent modernity and globalization. The new architectural language was a tool to attract foreign investors to support the local economy.  The juxtaposition of the globalized architecture against the Soviet-style squares and streets is strong evidence of the constant search of identity in Ulaanbaatar through the urban fabric.(Fig.4)

Fig. 4 Sukhbaatar Statue, the invincible Communist monument, with new development projects in the background, Ulaanbaatar, 2016.
Fig. 4 Sukhbaatar Statue, the invincible Communist monument, with new development projects in the background, Ulaanbaatar, 2009.

Reference

[1] Chinbat, B., M. Bayantur, and D. Amarsaikhan. “Investigation of the internal structure changes of Ulaanbaatar city using RS and GIS.” CDROM Proceedings of the ISPRS Mid-term Symposium, pp. 1-6. 2006.

[2] Andrew Jeffreys et al. The Report: Mongolia 2014. Oxford Business Group, 2014.

[3] Diener, Alexander C., Hagen, Joshua. “City of felt and concrete: Negotiating cultural hybridity in Mongolia’s capital of Ulaanbaatar” Nationalities Papers, Vol.41(4), 2013, 622-650.

[4] Diener, Hagen. “City of felt and concrete”, 637.

Image Reference

Mongolia Properties. “Sukhbaatar District map”. Real Estate Report 2014. http://www.mongolia-properties.com/research

Chinbat, B., M. Bayantur, and D. Amarsaikhan. “Investigation of the internal structure changes of Ulaanbaatar city using RS and GIS.” CDROM Proceedings of the ISPRS Mid-term Symposium, pp. 1-6. 2006.

“The Blue Sky Tower”. http://www.blueskytower.mn/english/index.php/gallery

Bernd Gross. “Sukhbaatar Square in Ulan Bator.”  https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e2/Ulan_Bator_16.JPG

 

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