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International Symposium for a Paradigm Shift in Public Rental Housing

seminarSept 02, 2020

The 'International Symposium for the Paradigm Shift in Public Rental Housing' was held on Aug. 12 at the Millennium Hilton Seoul in Jung-gu, Seoul. This symposium, hosted by the Korea Land and Housing Corporation (LH) was held to explore possible new directions in public rental housing at a time in which the construction of the third new cities in the metropolitan area, such as Hanam, Gyeonggi and Gyeyang, Incheon. Several experts participated online and offline, from home and abroad, to discuss specific issues such as public rental housing development methods, social intermixing, and community vitalisation through presentations and discussions.

First, Kim Youngwook (professor, Sejong University) as the first keynote speaker presented the ‘Spirit of the Times on Public Rental Housing’. Kim is currently the lead researcher on 'A Study on the New Public Rental Housing Planning Direction' (LH Study) jointly conducted by LH and the Urban Design Institute of Korea. He shared the implications derived from researching residential land and new city development projects from around the world in this project.

Kim noted that ‘for the past 30 years, the housing development districts that have been successfully built around the world occupy 50-70% of the building-to-land ratio and often have low and medium-storied floors of ten stories or less. This planning method, of placing a large number of houses on the ground, helps to increase contact and exchange between residents’. He then referred to the Swedish 'Malmo Complex', which consists of various types from single-family houses to five-story multi-family dwellings, and 'Greenwich Village' in London, UK, which consists of apartments of eight stories or less, as an example. And he pointed out the 50-story public reconstruction policy that is to go against the global trend.

The second keynote ‘Housing: What’s Next?’ was presented by Winy Maas (co-principal, MVRDV), who attended online. Maas, who is presently a Professor at the Delft University of Technology, described the new residential directions under scrutiny at the university's research centre 'The Why Factory', with four keywords including 'diversity', 'porosity', 'green space, and 'complex development'. These keywords were designed to ‘develop cities while paying attention to ecology and the environment’ in an era in which ‘generations of greater desires and greater diversity’ are emerging. He acknowledged that ‘if we simply build a densely packed city, it will be difficult to secure spaces for community, cooling, water storage and greenery’, and emphasised ‘porosity’ as a guiding concept that will become more important in the future. Besides, he stressed that complex developments are ‘a critical factor that is related to life, such as shopping, commuting and raising economic potential’.

In the topic presentation, Seo Kyungwook (professor, Northumbria University) released content from the ‘LH Study’. As the title shows, this study was promoted to plan new public rental housing. Keywords related to multi-family housing units such as the number of households, floor area ratio, floors, and building types are coded, databased and presented as a result (a guideline). By combining different keywords, it proposes suitable housing models according to the conditions and shows the theoretical background (academic thesis) linked to each keyword. Underneath these guidelines, the core values of the 3rd New Town, such as ‘creating a sustainable city’, ‘providing customised housing’, and ‘creating a socially integrated space’, are laid down. Seo Kyungwook argued that ‘the world is changing rapidly due to Coronavirus Disease-19 and climate change’. The “self-sufficient residential complex” which aims at diversity and decentralization proposed by the 3rd New Town is a valid development direction in that it reduces the risk of population concentration by suppressing unnecessary long-distance movement and diversifying the behaviour of its residents’.

A comprehensive discussion took place in the final order of the symposium. Kwon Hyeokrye (director, LH Public Housing Headquarters), Seo Hyun (professor, Seoul National University), Ahn Jaeseung (editor, the Hankyoreh), Lee Kyoseok (director, MVRDV), Han Jihyung (professor, Ajou University), and Kim Ki-ho (professor, University of Seoul) all discussed how to shift the paradigm for Public Rental Housing planning.

First of all, Han Jihyung evaluated the ‘LH Study’ as ‘a guideline that connects theory and practice, which is meaningful’, and added that ‘the conditions that can be applied to urban multi-family housing in a general level are well organised’. he continued to argue that the essential point in the future public housing plan will be 'diversity'. ‘This is the importance of diversity of participants, supply methods, tenants, and activities within the complex. It can be secured through a method by which various subjects participate in the development, not just in the way one construction company develops the whole.’

Based on his professional experience in Europe, Lee Kyoseok suggested ideas that would be reflected in the plans of the 3rd New Town. Lee said that, ‘In Korea, a complex planning method that creates a “field” on a scale of 2,000 to 3,000 households, in which the urban context is erased, is dominant. Suppose the scale is reduced to the level of 200 to 300 houses. In that case, the urban context permeates into residential developments, suitable to form a community, and it is good for architects to maximise their creativity.’ He also suggested a complex based on 'the height of about eight stories' and 'the sum of the total number of households and the total exclusive area', which makes architectural experiments easier, and the '15% principle' by which 15% of the households within the complex are designed as different types of houses.

Seo Hyun presented a different opinion from the participants from the perspective of the middle and low-rise apartment houses. He noted that ‘when we trace the origins of land ownership, we come across issues like an illegal occupation. High-rise apartments are a way to restore the publicity of the city’. Moreover, he added, ‘in the case of public rental housing, it is reasonable to open the ground floor to outsiders if possible, and to insert a “processed exterior space” in the middle of the building so that tenants can use it together.’