Posts tagged with "Korea":

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A brief urban history of Pyongyang, North Korea—and how it might develop under capitalism

The Architect’s Newspaper (AN) has partnered with urbanNext—a multidisciplinary platform for design promoted by Actar Publishers—to share articles on common topics every two weeks. This week, we’re pairing the urbanNext article below with AN’s “Photographer Andy Yeung uses drones to capture the density of Hong Kong.” The article below was authored by Dongwoo Yim, who received a Master of Architecture in Urban Design at Graduate School of Design (GSD), Harvard University, and bachelor’s degree in Seoul National University. Dongwoo is a faculty member of Rhode Island School of Design since 2011 and teaches PRAUD’s architectural discourse “TOPOLOGY & TYPOLOGY.”
As we witnessed from many post-socialist cities in Eastern Europe, Russia, and China, economic growth and political transition [have] supplied the formula for exceptionally radical and quick transformations of a city. Since adopting market-oriented systems, post-socialist cities have become “blue oceans” for new investments. Pyongyang, the capital city of North Korea, is one of few socialist cities in the world that has not adopted this new economic model. On the other hand, Pyongyang is comparable to socialist cities of decades ago, in that it exhibits a strong potential to attract huge investments if and when it begins to open its market to other countries. This change has, in fact, already begun to take place, raising the following questions for architects: 1) what growth model can be suggested? 2) where will the new developments be centered? 3) will the urban transformation replace or arise from within the existing structure of Pyongyang? Framed Pyongyang In spite of recent developments in its fledgling tourist industry, North Korea is still the most enclosed country in the world, and even Pyongyang, its capital city, remains under a veil. The information we currently have about Pyongyang primarily comes from media discussions of its political or social issues. In contrast to reports of its dictatorship, nuclear weapons programs, and the trend of nationwide starvation, the actual urban layout of Pyongyang has not received much attention. Pyongyang, however, was considered by other socialist countries to be an ideal socialist city when it was first built during the 1950s, instead of to be a city of veil or dictatorship. In the absence of the political dictatorship of today, Pyongyang provided an experimental field in which socialist architects attempted to apply their ideal urban structures to the real world. In the aftermath of the Korean War (1950-1953), Kim Il Sung, the leader of North Korea, decided to keep Pyongyang as the capital city of the DPRK (North Korea). Its layout reflected the ideology of socialism as well as [the] victory of the war. Left in complete shambles after the war, the reconstruction of Pyongyang afforded planners the rare opportunity to create a new structure from the ground up. Thus, in order to fully understand the urban structure of Pyongyang, it is necessary to first consider the larger context of the model socialist city, its historical context, and how it differed in key ways from the capitalist city model. Pyongyang as a Socialist City After three years of fighting in the Korean War, North Korea started to rebuild its cities through its first three-year reconstruction plan from 1954 to 1956. During this period, several socialist countries supported the reconstruction of North Korean cities by providing resources as well as technological assistance. Pyongyang received support from Hungary and Bulgaria, and not surprisingly, the architectural style and urban structure of Pyongyang showed some similarities to the two countries at the beginning of reconstruction. Based on a master plan in 1953 that reflected the ideals of socialist city planning, Pyongyang was planned as a one-million population city that would stretch from the Daedong River to the Botong River; the density of city was to planned as 20 percent to 25 percent. This scheme captured the socialist concepts of constructing a proper city in a well-planned way. Throughout the decades, Pyongyang realized a number of its socialist urban planning goals. The three major socialist urban morphologies mentioned above were well executed in the city. To resolve disparities between cities and to balance development between urban and rural area, [the] architects of Pyongyang aimed to set aside self-productive units within the city. Today’s Pyongyang continues to be planned based on a unit district system that combines the industrial and residential so that residents can both produce and consume their products. The density of population is planned at around 300 to 600 residents/ha. This district is well structured in the area across from the central administration district, and the two areas together comprise a key axis of directionality for city expansion. As North Korean leaders insisted that Pyongyang be developed in [a] well-balanced way in contrast to any other capitalist cities in the world, architects carefully injected landscape features into the city. Both riversides were developed major landscaped areas and most major boulevards were heavily planted. Additionally, to maximize the effectiveness of labor and production for workers, they created several leisure parks in the city so that the public could have enough rest and recover before returning to production. In Pyongyang, most of the leisure parks were located close to historical or memorial areas. The central part of the city was structured as a place for administrations and institutions. Major socialist buildings and symbols are located in this area, and the main square, Kim Il Sung Square, is also located there. Juche Tower, which is a symbol of North Korean ideology, is located directly across the river from the square. Together they create a major axis of symbolic spaces. Moreover, additional symbolic buildings and statues are distributed all around Pyongyang in order to serve as physical sites of propaganda for socialist ideology. Pyongyang was reconstructed based on the master plan that was designed by Kim Jung Hee in 1953. In the master plan, Pyongyang is structured as a multi-core city. Several different symbolic spaces are distributed evenly throughout the city and each of them become a core of each district. Also, main landscape structures are planned in between districts and work as buffer zones so that they cannot expand freely. This distribution of districts is mainly done to maintain the proper size of the city and to prevent social differentiation that can emerge from marked development in distinct areas. At the same time, each distributed central square works as a symbolic space that testifies to the centrally controlled society. In the 1960s, Kim Il Sung ordered the re-development of an architectural strategy of Pyongyang. Unlike the 1950s when development was more focused on [the] reconstruction of infrastructures based on a master plan, the new wave of development focused on five features that would propagate its society as well as its victory in war. They consisted for the expansion of the major boulevards and the construction of high-rise residential buildings along the boulevards, large-scale civic and cultural facilities, symbolic statues and squares, and leisurely and convenient facilities for foreigners. Once proposed, these five strategies became a major urban development standard with the larger scheme of the master plan in 1953. However, some of [the] schemes conflicted with the master plan. For instance, focusing on the development along major boulevards clashed with the development of several multi-cores. Major boulevards branched out of [the] central developed district and dense high-rise residential buildings came to be located along them. Consequently, this destroyed the multi-core system and only certain areas located near the start of the boulevards could function as core-like districts. Also, denser development of certain areas conflicted with the principle of evening distributing residents around Pyongyang. Additionally, even symbolic urban spaces came to congregate in the central part of the city instead of being distributed throughout the city. This phenomenon resulted primarily due to of the rapid growth of the city. Although North Korea, like other socialist countries, controlled migration of the population, it could not halt illegal immigration into the city and rapid urbanization of Pyongyang. As the city grew denser, housing shortages became a problem. To resolve this problem, as mentioned above, Pyongyang developed several high-rise residential areas. At the same time, informal residential areas emerged. They mostly arose in areas originally planned as landscape areas in the 1953 master plan, and housing resembled typical one or two-story houses that were designed for agricultural areas. This informal development not only broke with the landscape structure in the city, but also rendered micro-districts impossible. Hence, compared to other organized areas that were developed according to the master-plan, the informal development area lost its balance between residential units and service facilities. In short, the urban morphology of current-day Pyongyang portrays a mixture of the physical forms of the ideal socialist master plan and the realities of the actual development scheme. Transformation of a Socialist City As other socialist countries have already experienced, North Korea is also in the midst of [a] transition to adopt the capitalist system in some ways. There are several indications that highlight this transition. For instance, the secretive Pyongyang government recently launched an experiment with the free market in 2002, beginning to deregulate prices and hiking salaries. Also, small vendors, which had been controlled strictly by the government, are starting to emerge at major squares, and even underground real estate deals are taking place. Collectively, these changes can be seen as early indicators of a market-oriented economic system. The former Soviet Union, its Eastern European satellite, and China each underwent this transition a decade ago, and several cities amongst them, like Moscow, Shanghai, Beijing, have already [become] booming metropolises in the world. As noted earlier, socialist cities have different urban structures and morphologies from capitalist cities. These contrasts not only reflect different political ideologies but also differences in the flow of capital. Hence, when socialist cities start to allow capitalist forms of capital flow, the urban figures also change based on this new logic. The socialist city center has been the area where most of this transformation unfolds. Because of its strategic location and superior infrastructure, most investments are concentrated in the city center. Further, public spaces or institution areas in the city center that have weaker capital power tend to be occupied by bigger capitals such as business fields. Therefore, it is the central area of the city [that] begins to morph into the central business district, something that a socialist city has not had before. In summary, the emergence of a variety of retail outlets in the form of street vendors and warehouses are undeniable indicators of Pyongyang’s economic transition, and this trend will impact the transformation of its urban morphology. For example, the more evenly distributed activities of the socialist past will become concentrated in certain areas, while denser and higher pedestrian flows will develop around metro stations, major boulevards, or squares. Moreover, new warehouse-style transactions taking place outside the city will begin affecting the structuring of suburban areas where few developments have been witnessed under socialism. Suburbanization is also connected to the restructuring of social classes within the city. In an ideal social city, there is no class segregation and [the] government strictly controls the movement of its residents. However, as social classes begin to diversify based on personal earnings within the market-oriented system, upper classes have tended to relocate to areas that have better living quality. This observation is closely related to the system of the micro-district. Aiming to consolidate areas of production and living into one space, the micro-district creates a worse environment for residents than an area that is mainly focused on residential development. Therefore, social class differentiation leads to the segregation and restructuring of programs within a city. Pyongyang Transformation The urban structure and layout of Pyongyang will likely shift alongside major economic transformations that have already begun to take place. It may be beneficial for Pyongyang to develop a new set of plans to reflect its transition to a market-oriented system. What growth models are open to Pyongyang? There are several possible development plans for the city. One is the “incremental growth model.” Unlike most Chinese cities, the small size of Pyongyang’s market and the gradual nature of change suggests that the city will transform step by step. The incremental growth model differs from the ad-hoc master plan that ignores the existing socialist city structure and puts an alien structure onto the city. Just as the urban DNA of Pyongyang has resulted from the mixing of the original socialist master plan and development scheme, the incremental growth model will also be capable of forging a new DNA of Pyongyang, fusing it with its existing DNA. Thus the second questions to consider is: where would this incremental growth take place? Studies of other former socialists cities that have already been through the transition suggest that the urban mutation will occur easily in areas where the existing socialist structure and the market-oriented system collide. For instance, the area extending from the major axis of Kim Il Sung Square and Juche Tower is [a] location where socialist ideal morphology, as well as well-structured infrastructure, coexist. Because of its advantageous infrastructure and location, the area has a strong potential for attracting new investment in a market-oriented economic system. A desire to improve the residential environment will likely force production facilities, like light industries in the micro-district block, to be relocated to outside of the city; further, a new mix-used development, which is a typical development type in capitalist cities, will fill the gap. Similar types of transformation will unfold, albeit in distinct ways, in areas where informal development schemes arise. How does a new development interact with existing structures of the area? A significant difference between capitalist and socialist cities is "parcelization." Though its distribution of programs, there is no parcel system within a block in Pyongyang, whereas the parcel is the basic element that defines ownership in capitalist cities. However, like the notion of production-consumption within a block, the physical relationship between programs is very strong in Pyongyang. Thus, when a new parcel system is introduced for the sake of the market-oriented system, instead of just dividing parcel based on existing programs, the inter-relationship of programs should be carefully considered. For example, a parcel can be composed of both production facilities and residential lots, and it can be developed as a mixed-used program. This not only ensures the maintenance of the existing character of Pyongyang as a socialist city, but also makes possible gradual development within a block instead of a whole block scale development. In short, sixty years of socialist rule, twenty-first century Pyongyang is showing early signs of change, and the developments are nothing short of unprecedented. It will usher in new paradigms, a new economic system, and a new social structure. Therefore, a new structuring of Pyongyang is needed. There may be numerous strategies or scenarios to greet this new era of Pyongyang, and the scenario of incremental growth I have outlined is one I find particularly important. Pyongyang may or may not exhibit gradual growth patterns in the future. This scenario, however, takes into consideration the existing structures of Pyongyang and anticipates how they will be shaped by a new era.
Published in [UN] Precedented Pyongyang, 2017. This article originally appeared as Unprecedented Pyongyang on urbanNext. Springer, Chris. The hidden history of the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, 2003. Kim, Won. Socialist Urban Planning, 2004. Kim, Youngkyu. Tong Il Han Kook, 1988. Faiola, Anthony. Washington Post, 2004. Haaussermann, Hartmut. From the socialist to the capitalist city: Experiences from Germany. Axenov, Konstantin; Brade, Isolde, and Bondarchuk, Evenij. The transformation of Urban Space in Post-Soviet Russia. Wu, Fulong; Xu, Jiang, and Gar-On Yeh, Anthony. Urban Development in Post-Reform China, State, Market, and Space.
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Seoul Square to act as a 21st Century platform for self expression

New York based Studio Dror claims their proposal for a public space in Seoul acts as a 21st century platform for public self expression on an individual and community level. Their submission is part of the Sejong-daero Historic Cultural Space Design Competition which is seeking projects to occupy the former site of Seoul’s National Tax Service Building. The project seeks to integrate the surrounding context with the cultural history of the site by creating a meaningful and accessible public resource that touches on private and public experiences. This is achieved via the implementation of raised platforms that offering sweeping views of the area, juxtaposed by lower down areas which offer a much more enclosed space. Eager to amplify the notion of expression at this level however, Studio Dror has included a public stage with in the space creating an amphitheater that also, according to the practice, "doubles as a recording studio to document and maximize exposure." This is aided by the surrounding walls that encapsulate the space and act as an acoustic device. The square will be open 24 hours a day, all year round allowing people to express themselves whenever they want and for all voices to be heard. Recognizing the popular contemporary digital and online formats of expression, a digital archive will be formed, creating an "ever-growing oral history project: an invaluable resource for future generations and a powerful, 21st-century strategy for memorializing the site."
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Pictorial> Twenty-one of the best pavilions from Milan Expo 2015

Milano Expo 2015 is rolling along, with 145 countries and a host of international organizations, civil society organizations, and corporations displaying their food-centric traditions and the latest sustainable agriculture and food production techniques. AN reported on the Expo when it opened:

a handful of designs...stand out as attempts to rethink the way we build and how it relates to modern agriculture and sustainable food production for the next century. Most of the pavilions use sustainable materials and construction methods that utilize national building techniques. Inside, exhibitions—often interactive—showcase biodiversity, culture, and food traditions of each nation.

Beyond the focus on food and agriculture, there is also a wealth of eye-catching architecture at the Milan Expo as well. Here is a collection of some of our favorite pavilions from this year's rendition. And be sure to check out our coverage of the Expo here.
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Step Inside MVRDV’s psychadelic skyline design for Seoul’s High Line

Just when you were getting tired of more High Line copies, Dutch architects MVRDV has breathed new life into the genre with their winning proposal for the “Seoul Skygarden,” a 3,000 foot long section of disused elevated highway. Their design doesn’t simply reappropriate the space into a linear public parkway—it uses the original 1970s structure as the basis for an urban horticultural extravaganza. Form that structure, which was deemed unusable for cars in 2009, the designers have attached a series of stairs, lifts and escalators as well as new satellite gardens that will grow with the needs of the park. The design features 254 different species of trees, shrubs, and flowers, which are chosen to showcase the biodiversity of Seoul. The library of plants is organized alphabetically and will educate visitors. New leisure spaces such as flower shops, street markets, libraries and greenhouses will provide respite from the city. The new urban thruway will connect two zones that were previously separated by a railway station and a subsequent 25 minute walk. The now-pedestrian friendly path will reduce this walk to 11 minutes, while simultaneously producing an estimated 1.83 times its own cost for the city.    
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Quick Clicks> City Atlas, Boathouse Retouch, Urban After Dark, Seasonal Seoul

The City Atlas. The City Atlas is a new online project that seeks to create a platform to share collective imagination that is grounded on past and current accomplishments yet aimed at the future. Check out their website here. Don't Remove, Retouch. This beautifully renovated Norweigian boathouse is still technically un-new. Norwegian architects TYIN tegnestue was committed to reuse as much physical material as possible during the renovation. Images at WorldArchitectureNews. Urban After Dark. According to Chuck Wolfe at myurbanist, a city's true success is best measured at night (hence the quote “cities, like cats, will reveal themselves at night"). Seasonal Sedum. Check out these twelve staggered living roofs in Seoul designed by Joel Sanders Architect in cooperation with Haeahn Architecture. The roofs are planted with flowers (sedum) that bloom at different times of the year-- resulting in changing, seasonal landscapes. See the images on Inhabitat.
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“Alps In Asia” named hub for  2018 Winter Olympics

If you haven’t heard by now, Pyeongchang, the mountainous South Korean town located in Gangwon Province, 112 miles outside of Seoul, has won the bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics. Helping secure the win was the $1.4 billion dollar, 1,240-acre Alpensia Resort, which was completed in 2009. It will become home to the Olympic Village, several competitions and the opening and closing ceremonies. Nicknamed “Alps in Asia”, the alpine-style village was designed as an all-season, year-round destination with the help of Cuningham Group Architecture, whose LA office oversaw the design and master planning. While not exclusively built for the Winter Games, Alpensia boasts Olympic-grade facilities, including, ski jumping, biathlon, and cross-country skiing venues. Other amenities include five-star hotels, private residences, golf courses, a water park, and convention and concert centers. “From the start, Alpensia was conceived as an international resort and recreation destination,” said Cuningham Group Principal Jim Scheidel AIA, LEED AP, who supervised the design. At the heart of the village is a retail and entertainment pedestrian promenade. Adjacent to it is a factory outlet shopping street, one of the first of its kind in Korea. For Olympic-bound travelers, a new high-speed rail link from Seoul’s international airport to Pyeonchang is scheduled to open ahead of the Games and will zip visitors to the slopes in about an hour.