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Shinseoul, Myeongdong - Hoehyeon, Seoul, South Korea (2018)



Shinseoul, Myeongdong - Hoehyeon, Seoul, South Korea (2018)

The City of Seoul is reactivating and expanding the existing underground system to connect the city center, extending the network of subway stations and underground areas reaching from Seoul Station, Hoehyeon, Myeong-dong and City Hall to Dongdaemun. The Seoul Metropolitan Government has identified ten strategic sites within the extensive redevelopment project and invited architects from Korea and abroad, including Kwangsoo Kim (Studio K Works), Taekbin Kim (Escape) and Yong-Soon Chang (Hongik University), Kyong-Chan Cho (Terminal 7 Architects), SoA, Cheungvogl, Dominique Perrault, Kees Christiaanse (KCAP), Winy Maas (MVRDV) and  modostudio to research, design and develop site specific strategies and future extension plans. Within the development, Cheungvogl is selected to reactivate and expand the central site of the Hoehyeon underground system adjacent to Shinsegae Department Store, its connection to Hoehyeon Station and Myeong-dong and its extend to City Hall, Seoul Station and Seoullo 7017, tentative working title Shinseoul.



Surface Multiplier - The Public Layers of Seoul

The redevelopment of the existing underground spaces and the extension to a connected system beneath the city center of Seoul will provide the urban grain with an extended new layer by reconnecting the unoccupied ground beneath the cityís extensive traffic network. This new public layer will only function within the urban fabric if the underground system stands in direct correlation with the overground streetscape and cityscape. The reactivation of the underground development project will largely depend on the interlink with the city life and context. In return, the ambition of the holistic development will feedback to the reactivation of the city center, which has been halted due to increasing property prices, leading the development of alternative business and commercial districts in the outer districts, such as Gangnam. Subsequently, the recent unattractiveness for urban and commercial development in the area has now created opportunities for rediscovery and redevelopment potentials in the city center, which had been left in a state of sleeping beauty in the past decades. In these means, the development of the underground layer will become more than a development in itself, but an urban activator to central Seoul.

The new redeveloped underground system will receive large numbers of visitors in form of commuters through the connection to the existing metro stations and will benefit the subway system with the convenience of newly created interlinks between stations and different subway lines. To develop the system further, away from a mere thoroughfare to an integral part of Seoulís city life, the underground system will have to connect and open up to central nodes within the urban grain, creating places of urban, cultural and social relevance and interest, which will result in transformation of the cityís streetscape in these areas and beyond. The new underground public layer will largely depend upon the simultaneous activation of the overground.


The aspect which generally separates underground spaces from the streetscape most is the lack of visual and physical connection, which amplifies the disconnection into a psychological barrier. The introduction of a sculptural installation that abstractly identifies the footprint of the underground space on street level, creating an intermediate zone between the inside and outside while establishing landmarks at strategic intersections, indicating the existence of the underground network and offering orientation in form of destinations and attractions from afar. At entry points, the sculptural installation heightens and densifies, directing human flow towards gravitation points of the development between the over-and-underground landscapes. The sculptural installations, create new perceptions from different angles within the rigid urban grain, becoming attraction, intervention, landmark and physical interruption in and to the rhythm of the urban fabric, breaking barriers between the existing city pattern as well as in individual freedom. The unknown and the unseen create curiosity. The intervention in form of abstraction, which does not follow apparent rational patterns, becomes the urban incubator of new perceptions.

The paradox of freedom is that it is only defined by the boundaries it aims to overcome.


The intervention of Shinseoul physically connects the site with Hoehyeon, Myeong-dong and City Hall while shaping a visual connection through major and minor streets surrounding the site, creating a gravity field towards and into the new underground public layer extension. Underneath the densified areas of the sculptural installation at significant junctions within the urban fabric, the streetscape submerges with the underground layer through smooth transition of slopes, which connect the street level with the lower ground city layer at points where the urban grain opens up to larger public spaces. The street level gently unfolds into the underground spaces, unifying the different levels with undulating landscapes, which naturally create a continuous connection and stands in stark contrast to the rigid building masses surrounding the site. The transitional layering overcomes both, the physical and the visual disconnection between overground and subterranean levels and extends the cityscape into the new development, where gentle slopes continue to mediate between different levels. At central nodes, the ground is punctuated with openings to allow daylight and natural ventilation to extend the city squares into the public layers below street level. The triangle of entry points to Shinsegae Department Store, Korea Post Headquarters and Bank of Korea are designed to form the main melting points between street level and underground. The transitions are sheltered from weather conditions under the densified sculpture. At ground level, entrance pavilions, containing public spaces, vertical connections of lifts, escalators and stairs further break down barriers between under- and overground.


The redevelopment of the existing underground is focused on the redefinition of space and its usage within the given narrow spatial and structural parameters. Within the new extensions, the underground opens up into double height volumes with wider structural spans, maintaining commuters flow at the same existing level, while creating large spaces for events, exhibitions, sports activities and communal gathering points around attractions. The upper tier transforms into an intermediate public streetscape below the city, containing pedestrian flows and terraces, lining the traffic with retail, cafes and restaurants which extends into the adjacent Shinsegae Department Store. The newly created double height spaces between the existing network systems will form public interlinks between the commercial developments and transform these spaces into new underground city squares.


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