Amazing Architecture of the Dongdaemun Design Plaza

Written by on June 25, 2014 in Travel, Worldwide Korea Bloggers

Finally I visited the Dongdaemun Design Plaza, in short DDP, which opened on March 21st. As you can already tell by the name, it lies in the famous Dongdaemun shopping area. This very futuristic building is the new hub for design and modern culture in Korea. It is also very photogenic design, so  I took pictures with my phone and GoPro (so some pictures have a wide-angle, fish-eye effect!). If you want to see better pictures, please go to Robert Koehler’s Flickr-page or his Tumblr. Let’s explore the Dongdaemun Design Plaza together.

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History of the Dongdaemun Design Plaza

Originally on the ground of the DDP was a baseball stadium and a multi-functional sport stadium. The history of the sport stadium goes back to 1925. If you click here, you can see a picture from 1955. Later the two stadiums have been constructed. In 2003 the sport stadium was closed and it became a parking garage. It also hosted a large flea market, which is part of the controversy. The baseball stadium next to it was used until 2007. A new stadium, we wrote about it here, will be built in Guro and it is expected to open in 2015.

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In 2007 Seoul hold an international design competition for that area. It was based on an invitation-only system and among the seven competitors, there have been four Koreans (one of them designed the new City Hall of Seoul!), Zaha Hadid, Steven Holl and FOA. Hadid won because her design had a “successful combination of landscape and architecture and expressed a strong image of design in pedestrian’s view” (Seouldesign Webzine). If you are interested in the eight concepts, you can see them on this blog.

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The construction begun in 2009 and it was finished in November 2013. The total size of the project is 85,320 square-meters and the buildings use 25,008 square-meters. The construction costs of the DDP were 450 million US dollar.

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The Design

20140429_134742Zaha Hadid calls the design of the DDP a “metonymic landscape”. Metony-what? Wiktionary defines metonymy as “The use of a single characteristic or name of an object to identify an entire object or related object.” OK, it doesn’t help us a lot to understand this concept. The webzine of Seouldesign explained the concept and its meaning:

Zaha Hadid paid attention to the general flow of Dongdaemun and its features which are differentiated every hour. DDP is positioned in ‘Metonymic landscape’ as a space linking park with design center physically and as a composition of park design not largely differing from Korean traditional garden design.

The design is amazing and very unique. Even more astonishing than the shape of the building is the inside. I don’t know how many Korean elements are integrated but it’s something very new in Korean urbanism. The majority of people seem to like the DDP very much. For sure Seoul built a new tourist attraction and a place for exhibitions or special events.

Park Won-soon said that the DDP is ugly and it does not fit in the surrounding. Actually, the current mayor criticizes all large-scale projects in this article of the Korea Times. So probably the current mayor would have never allowed something like that to be built. Many call it an “alien spaceship“. And yeah, it looks little bit like a spaceship just landed:

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Controversy

Every large-scale project has a controversial debate. One of the general issues is that the new plaza does not value the history. If you look at the other designs, you can see more resemblance to the stadiums. Therefore, two floodlights, which look like from a baseball stadium, were integrated in the Dongdaemun History and Culture Park. Another problem was this:

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Historic artifacts were discovered while digging in the ground. Every city with a long history has such an issue. And there are more problems about the Dongdaemun Design Plaza. They are summarized on Listen to the City (in Korean and English) and in this video: http://vimeo.com/43113613

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There are also political issues, which begun with displacing street vendors due to the Cheonggyecheon project. The video explains it well. So I would conclude that the implementation of the Dongdaemun Design Plaza and the park wasn’t the best but the building and design is great. Aren’t modernism and design the things, which Dongdaemun should stand for?

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Related Sources and Information:  Seoul Design | Zaha Hadid Architects

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About the Author

Nikola Medimorec

Nikola Medimorec is a graduate student of geography in Korea. He's interested in everything that moves on two legs, rails above or underground, two wheels with pedals or four wheels with red buzzers. His articles intend to show that transport is more than a method of getting from A to B.