Sewoon Sangga (1966-1976)/ 1. Expression of nationalism

After a long period of war and the occupancy of the Japanese as a colonial country, Korea had suffered from the subsequent economic loss and, more importantly, the confusion of their own national identity. Meanwhile, as the military government at that time aspired to manifest the nation’s modernization movement, people started to recognize the need to accept modern architecture as a tool to signify the modernization of Korea. The architects, which were educated in the modern generation or studied aboard under western education, at that period of time felt a sense of responsibility to express the government nationalistic ideology and several modern architecture and construction projects were built in a short period of time in the 1960s. Such ideology was a similar way as the Japanese architecture as a display of the Japanese’s imperialist power.

Opening ceremony of newly-built high-rise residential building,  National Archives of Korea, 20 years history of the Korea Housing Corporation (the Korea Housing Corporation , 1979
Opening ceremony of newly-built high-rise residential building, National Archives of Korea, 20 years history of the Korea Housing Corporation (the Korea Housing Corporation , 1979

The nation’s planning after the war happened in an extraordinary speed and the government aspired to accomplish a lot of development for the country in its planning. As the pressure for growth and modernization increased day by day, the promotion of building mega-structure as visible and fast symbols of their progress of modernism became one of the ways to prove the country’s strength of stepping into the modern future. In the Five Year Development Plan being executed in the 1960s, the construction of the Sewoon Sangga development was confirmed as a visualized symbol of modern residential living in the 20th century. For the design of the arcade, the architect Kim and the government used western examples as references and chose a modern style instead of the traditional Korea one, as if they were leaving the forgotten rich Korean culture behind. They were eager and convinced to envision and believe it was the right direction for the nation’s future. In order to improve the general living environment of the nation as a modernized country do, the government were seeking ways to improve the nation’s degraded residential area. As a result, it led to the destruction of the traditional urban fabric pf Seoul by creating a totally different urban appearance with a number of high-rise buildings. The plan started with Sewoon Sangga development. The arcade being the first mix-used and the largest residential building at that period of time was also a symbol and a contribution to the country’s fast-growing post-war economy. During that period, one of the reason for the fame of this huge monsters was the luxurious and first-class apartments on the upper floors with lavish amenities like fitness centre.

Facilities inside Sewoon Sangga, Kyuonghyang Newspaper  23 Oct. 1970 / 26 Oct. 1970 / 27 Oct. 1970 / 28 Oct. 1970 / 31 Oct. 1970
Facilities inside Sewoon Sangga, Kyuonghyang Newspaper 23 Oct. 1970 / 26 Oct. 1970 / 27 Oct. 1970 / 28 Oct. 1970 / 31 Oct. 1970

Even that, the actual built buildings fell far short of Kim’s even more ambitious original design, which included glass atria and even a transportation system that could actually connect all the originally planned eight buildings together. The ambition and symbolic ideology to signify Korea as a country marching toward modernity could clearly be revealed in the architect’s dream for these huge urban monsters.

Frampton, K. (1992). Modern Architecture: A Critical History. Thames and Hudson.
Ahn, Chang Mo. (1966). Fifty Years of Korean Modern Architecture. Jaewon Press Co.
Song. Ryul. A Study on the Development Process of Korea’s Modern Architecture, Ph.D. degree dissertation, Seoul national university, 1993.

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