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Beyond Seunsangga-16 ideas to go beyond big plans

This book presents sixteen critical reflections on large-scale urban plans, focusing on the Seunsangga area, in particular, in the midst of Seoul, South Korea. The articles shed light on potential pitfalls of large-scale urban plans and possible alternatives from diverse angles. Seunsangga consists of seven commercial-residential, multi-use buildings. As a whole, this 1km-long mega structure stretches from Jongno3-street to Toegye-street in the historic city centre. Being located between Jongmyo shrine and Mountain Nam on a former evacuation site, Seunsangga had enjoyed considerable popularity since its opening in 1968, accommodating the most cutting-edge electronic stores and workshops of that time. However, the fate of Seunssanga soon became grim with the emergence of the South of Han River as a new fast-developing urban core. Different redevelopment plans for Seunsangga were under discussion for nearly three decades, which culminated in the total demolition and reconstruction scheme by the former mayor Oh in 2008. The whole area of 40 hectare was then slated for transforming into a skyscraper area with a central, green park. The new mayor Park has reversed this decision in 2014 to preserve Seunsangga and to enable its surroundings to develop incrementally on a smaller project basis. The previous big plan has passed away. Still, many challenges lie ahead. For instance, dynamic networks of urban light manufacturing industries are on the brink of dissolution, conflicting interests between different stakeholders make even more complex the art of place-making and gentrification is more likely when more public spaces get refurbished. Hence, diverse planning issues addressed by this book are more relevant today than ever, as an engaging future of the Seunsangga area starts from informed decisions that we make today.

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Cherishing a history that reaches back over more than 600 years, Seoul is still undergoing a time of dynamic change - more than any other new city. For the ancient future of Seoul, intellectuals, urbanists and architects shared their knowledge and insight in this book. I welcome this as an invaluable guide to Seouls engaging future.

-  Seung H-Sang (City-Architect Seoul)

In this book we discover what was missed in the excessive speed of our urban development. To consider small issues alongside larger concerns makes it possible to shape better sites in our cities. Those who seek details and stories that are all too often lost in the middle of meta-narratives and large-scale constructions will find a way in this book. Let's proceed slowly, with a long-term perspective.

-  Kiho Kim (Professor at University of Seoul)

The contents of the book

Ch 1. The Past and Present of Large-scale Development

Sungwoo Kim reconstructs a narrative around the Seunsangga area where a host of diverse light manufacturing activities and small, medium businesses could continue to find their place. He advocates regeneration approaches that unlock the potential of Seunsangga as an iconic Modern architecture. Sharing her first impression of the Seunsangga, Charlotte Malterre-Barthes highlights worrying consequences of gentrification, the displacement of existing people and the loss of diversity. She introduces a number of inspiring cases in which resisting citizens succeeded to secure local assets to meet their collective needs. Sung Chan Cho proposes four key properties of the convivial city as the normative base of urban regeneration and sets out practical strategies to enable the sharing of land value in the Seunsangga area. Young Bum Reigh revisits the idea of publicness and public value which has been revealed in planning process for Seunsangga. Further, he raises analytic questions to strategically demarcate the scope and role of citizen participation in the context of a large-scale urban redevelopment as the Seunsangga area.

Ch 2. The Lessons of Downtown Industrial Area Development

Naomi. C. Hanakata makes an interesting point about how significant it is to retain small-scale manufacturing in inner urban areas, since it keeps the spirit of creativity and craftsmanship alive and adds to diversity. Following this line of thinking, Soonbok Choi introduces two cases in Seoul where existing people working in urban manufacturing co-exist with newcomers such as artists and youth activists. In contrast, another manufacturing cluster in Wangsimni could not coexist with new programmes. Based on his study of Wangsimni, Bla? Kri?nik argues that dense productive and social networks and interpersonal solidarity within industrial clusters positively influence quality of everyday life as well as local economy. Florian Baeumler clarifies the state of different clusters in the Seunsangga area and the printing cluster in particular, outlining policy priorities from a planning point of view.

Ch 3. Seunsangga and the New Development Process

Zef Hemel explains ten principles of organising a platform where to exchange ideas and create new meanings, as part of an on-going process of place-making. This platformization would lead to a series of events, catalysing the gradual improvement of Seunsangga. Kees Christiaanse and Yoo Na Ho bring to the fore the concept of reconciliation between big and small plans, which is the key to facilitating a course of transformation into the open city. From an urban design point of view, Kathrina Haag suggests seven guidelines to keep the Soul of Seoul in the midst of incremental transformation in a sustainable way. Pat Conaty synthesizes two approaches of the collaborative economy in order to nurture endogenous capabilities of local economic, social networks in the Seunsangga area; one is to strengthen flexible manufacturing networks based on a multitude of cooperatives and the other is to create community land trusts to secure affordable housing for working neighbourhoods. Yeunkeum Kim and Hyeri Park questions the role of communication in planning process and argues that communication must be taken more seriously as a purpose to serve rather than a mere means to achieve other goals. This is relevant to todays situation where community participation has become another fuzzy word.

Ch 4. Development Gain and the Future of Seunsangga

Willem Korthals Altes and Vitnarae Kang first emphasize an accountability deficit often experienced in urban mega projects and then, put forward different ways of organising urban development to cater for learning and public value capture. Starting from what he observed in the city centres of Seoul, Jeroen Dirckx suggests a new scenario of transformation to ensure that financial gains from densification are invested back into the area for quality of place, while maintaining multiple-landownership. This includes establishing an area-based development agency, working with plot-communities, integrating public interest into a flexible planning framework, and streamlining building regulations on strategic matters. Michiel Boesveld specifically focuses on issues of land value capture in Amsterdam as an example to show how planning process and city-wide strategies for better neighbourhoods are combined with their financing mechanisms.

The sixteen articles ultimately relate the particularities of Seunsanggas planning issues to more fundamental questions and answers that are also relevant to other large-scale urban development sites. So this book does not only contribute to a more in-depth public debate on the future of the Seunsangga area, but also can be a good reference guide to those who want to understand the planning challenges faced in South Korean cities and who wish to follow an alternative, concrete approach.


Sungwoo Kim's experience with large scale civic projects in Seoul plays a vital role in running the practice in Korea. He frequently teaches at Seoul National University and Korean National University of Arts with advanced design studios on old urban blocks of central Seoul. He holds a Bachelor/ Master of Science in Architecture from Seoul National University and Master of Architecture from Berlage Institute. He is an appointed Public Architect of Seoul Metropolitan Government.

Young Bum Reigh is currently a professor at the Graduate School of Architecture of Kyonggi University. He studied architecture at Seoul National University and received his PhD from Graduate School of Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. He has actively been involved in Urban Action Network, a non-governmental organisation in the field of community-based design and urban regeneration. He has been in charge of the Community Design Center for many years and has done various community-based design work including the Hanpyong Park projects. He has written a series of books including Remember the urban death(2009), Urban regeneration of New York, London, and Seoul (2009, co-authored), and Do the community design (2012, co-authored).

Zef Hemel (1957), born in Emmen new town, The Netherlands, studied human geography at the State University of Groningen. He wrote his PhD on the history of regional planning in the new IJsselmeerpolders (1942-1967) at the University of Amsterdam. Hemel was policymaker at the Dutch Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment, director of the Rotterdam Academy of Architecture and Urban Design and deputy-managing director of the Urban Planning Department of the City of Amsterdam. Since 2012 he is extraordinary professor Urban and Regional Planning (Wibaut Chair) at the University of Amsterdam.

Kees Christiaanse, born 1953 in Amsterdam, studied architecture and urban planning at the TU Delft. From 1980 until 1989 he worked for the Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) in Rotterdam, becoming a partner in 1983. In 1989 Kees Christiaanse founded his own office ir. Kees Christiaanse Architects & Planners in Rotterdam, KCAP since 2002. Since 2003 he is professor at the ETH in Zurich (CH). In 2009 Kees Christiaanse was curator of the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR) with the title Open City. Designing Coexistence. Since 2010 Kees is program leader of the Future Cities Laboratory (FCL) in Singapore.

Sung Chan Cho (Chief Researcher at Institute of Land and Liberty), Charlotte Malterre-Barthes (Doctoral Researcher at ETHZ), Naomi C. Hanakata (PhD Researcher at ETH Zurich FCL Singapore), Florian Baeumler (Assistant Professor at Graduate School of Urban Studies, Hanyang University), BlaŽ KriŽnik (Assistant Professor at Graduate School of Urban Studies, Hanyang University), Soonbok Choi (Principal of DESIGNbok), Yoo Na Ho (Team Leader at KCAP Architects&Planners), Katharina Hagg (Assistant Professor at TU Berlin), Pat Conaty (Research Associate at Co-operatives UK), Yeunkum Kim (Principal of Wul Landscape Architecture Office, Partner of Big by Small), Willem K. Korthals Altes (Professor at TU Delft), Jeroen Dirckx (Associate at KCAP Architects&Planners), Michiel Boesveld (MSRE, Senior Policy Advisor at City of Amsterdam)


Hyeri Park is an urbanist as well as an architect focusing on forming and transforming cities by social entities and inhabitants everyday lives through the design processes. As an urban-architect, she has created master plans at many scales, based on a flexible and adaptable approach, in both Europe and Asia. She works for KCAP Architects&Planners in Rotterdam as a senior urban planner after her professional work experience in Korea. In parallel to her practice, she also has been researching for urban discourse in a creative way as well as participating in architectural biennales and exhibitions.

Vitnarae Kang is a young academic researcher in urban and regional development, especially through the lens of land development processes that bridge the gap between spatial planning and implementation. Her current PhD research focuses on the role of Netherlands municipalities in urban development from a cross-country comparative perspective. Public accountability for project decisions and implementation, flexibility in project organisation, and public value capture are the key points to analyse.

In the Books

The Seunsangga Complex became the centre of the electrical and electronics industry, as small businesses began to use residential spaces in the upper floors of the Seunsangga Complex as an office and a warehouse. The Dongdaemun Shopping Complex was changed into a specialist market that would deal with fabric and subsidiary materials for apparel enterprises in Dongdaemun area, as a part of fabric dealers relocated from the old market, Kwangjang Sijang to the Dondaemun Shopping Complex. Though it failed to attract retail customers due to the maze-like interior space. Logistical difficulties as a result of the complicated interior space without category or hierarchy and high number of floors were autonomously overcome by the introduction of burden carriers. Overcoming accessibility problem with small businesses and flexible logistics movement network, the modern and massive building became a new, innovative place. - The Ecosystem of Industries in Downtown Seoul and the Implication of Large-scale Projects _ Sungwoo Kim

What Joel Kotkin pinpoints as the most important value is sacredness, which does not mean religious values, but also moral values and consciousness giving a direction to urban communities. With this as a foundation, citizens can have security and actively engage in producing and trading goods in an open way, which lead to commerce prosperity. The three success factors of sacredness, security and commerce for a prosperous city can also be applied to urban regeneration projects. As a principle corresponding to sacredness, I would first like to propose conviviality, as a value around which urban communities can centre themselves. A city is like an organism. If a part of the organism is sick, the whole organism is affected. In that sense, conviviality can be a founding moral principle for the living, breathing city. - Towards the Convivial City: Principles for Urban Regeneration _ Sung Chan Cho

Every neighbourhood in a big city has its own life cycle, consisting of four phases: the dog, the question mark, the star, and the cash cow. If the district is a dog then its market share, i.e. the degree of development, is low, and so is its market growth rate, i.e. the prospects for development. If the growth rate is on the rise but the market share remains low, then the area is a question mark. The neighbourhood becomes a star only if its growth rate is high and its market share is rising as well. If the growth rate drops but its market share is high, the district becomes a cash cow. The Seunsangga area is a dog, but could become a question mark, presuming an organic process in which many stakeholders could participate.  - A Platform for Seun: Open Planning in Seoul _ Zef Hemel

It keeps the structure of the Seunsangga, and aims to incorporate some of the old pathways and the morphology of the surrounding area, showing a higher sensitivity towards the character and history of the place in contrast to previous plans. It should be simple to take another step in the evolution of this softer approach, not only to keep what is now partly present but to increase the quality of the existing structures through redevelopment. For instance, this could be achieved by repairing the old alleyways, making the Seunsangga more accessible and better connected to the surrounding blocks, by mapping and evaluating the valuable buildings and heritage sites, by integrating the open spatial networks wherever possible, and by increasing the value of the ground floor to improve the neighbourhood at increments. These are ambitions already partly revealed by the master plan, but probably not yet tested or are still in an initial phase of implementation. Are these ambitions compatible with the increase in density proposed by the master plan?- Seoul Soul: Seven Simple Guidelines to Start and Support Sustainable Development in Seoul _ Katharina Hagg

Since it is rare in Korea that residents are asked to voice their opinions during the planning process, in general residents have welcomed these workshops very much. They express their satisfaction by saying, for example, I had never taken part in this kind of event before, or I find it highly desirable that public officials and experts will listen to citizens in this way, or I find the process very interesting and agreeable. For many of them, it is the very first opportunity they have had to discuss a particular subject in public and share their views with many other people. This phenomenon has posed a number of contingent questions: Are we only selecting measurable or attractive aspect of projects to show to a number of workshops and a number of participants? Are we satisfied with the extent to which we made participation possible? Are we limiting participation merely to the initial phase of identifying problems and establishing a vision? Can we say, based on a number of participatory programmes such as workshops, that participation was achieved at its greatest potential? - Communication: Purpose as well as Method _ Yeunkum Kim + Hyeri Park 


The Past and Present of Large-scale Development

The Ecosystem of Industries in Downtown Seoul and the Implication of Large-scale Projects _ Sungwoo Kim
Revitalization of Seunsangga and the Potential for Urban Planning Based on Citizen Participation _ Young Bum Reigh
Towards the Convivial City: Principles for Urban Regeneration _ Sung Chan Cho
No Destruction, No Gentrification: In Search of an Alternative Urban Future _ Charlotte Malterre-Barthes

The Lessons of Downtown Industrial Area Development

Relearning the Art of Crafting Space _ Naomi C. Hanakata
Seun Printing Cluster: Between Preservation, Innovation and Redevelopment _ Florian Baeumler
Lessons from Wangsimni: Traditional Industrial Clusters in Seoul as Social and Cultural Assets _ BlaŽ KriŽnik
A Suggestion for Seunsangga Based upon Lessons Learnt from Mullaedong and Dongdaemun _ Soonbok Choi

Seunsangga and the New Development Process

A Platform for Seun: Open Planning in Seoul _ Zef Hemel
Towards the Open City _ Kees Christiaanse + Yoo Na Ho
Seoul Soul: Seven Simple Guidelines to Start and Support Sustainable Development in Seoul _ Katharina Hagg
Co-operative Economy and Community Land Trust: Strategic Solutions for the Seunsangga Area of Seoul _ Pat Conaty
Communication: Purpose as well as Method _ Yeunkum Kim + Hyeri Park

Development Gain and the Future of Seunsangga

From Big Plans to Small Steps _ Willem K. Korthals Altes + Vitnarae Kang
Incremental and Diverse: A New Approach to the Transformation of Seoul _ Jeroen Dirckx
Capture Land Value Uplift for Urban Regeneration: The Case of Amsterdam _ Michiel Boesveld