SITE ANALYSIS FOR THE SEOUL BIENNALE 2017

 

MAKING A HUMAN-CENTRED CITY – WORKSHOP -

THE PLINTH AS AN AMBIGUOUS ZONE BETWEEN PUBLIC AND PRIVATE

 

 

The workshop “Making A Human-Centred City” (MHCC) was an important contribution to the site analysis of Seoul Station Area by SKKU students participating in the International Design Studios of the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism 2017. The workshop method was developed by Dr.-Ing.  Birgit Jürgenhake, TU Delft, Faculty of Architecture.  Birgit Jürgenhake also organized the workshop at SKKU, Department of Architecture in the framework of her research semester, in cooperation with and supported by SKKU Professors and students.  The workshop was executed in the first week during the semester in order to support the students in the basic analysis and understanding of the neighbourhoods surrounding Seoul Station area.

 

After a general site visit and discussion of various urban aspects, seven locations (spots) have been determined and assigned to 14 student groups. Two groups consisting of three to four students worked on one of the seven spots. 

 

The student groups were assigned to analyse and evaluate the selected spots, particularly the plinth as a zone between public and private space in the urban context. Plinth here is defined as the outdoors ground floor area that includes the façade of buildings and the area in front it. The plinth can therefore be defined as an intermediary zone between the city and the building. This zone is often closed up hermetically in residential areas; it is generally used commercially in shopping streets; and it may be unclear and unpleasant in urban areas with mixed functions. The analysis methods applied by the students were onsite visual observation, preparation of hand drawings and interviews with residents.

The principal question for the plinth analysis by observation and drawings was: ‘what kind of problems and qualities can be identified at the plinth of an inner-city small-scale living environment?’ The main question for the interviews was: ‘what kind of city do residents want, and what do they need in their direct living environment areas?’  

After the plinth analysis, the workshop focused on the evaluation of plinth design elements and aspects, and the lessons to be learned for new design assignments. Most students made suggestions for the improvement of the spots they analyzed.

The primary workshop goal was teaching students how to work with the methods of observation, hand drawings and interviews as analysis method and secondly to understand the value and the problems of the plinth as a mediator between inside and outside and between public and private. A lively plinth area contributes making the city livable for its inhabitants.

 

A small-scale neighborhood next to Seoul central station was chosen as working area. The students had to sketch sections of facades, the related street profiles including the opposite facade, and the floor plans of the plinth. Furthermore, students were asked to draw fixed architectonic and flexible elements that mark boundaries between public and private space or invite to stay. The sketches caught the essentials, and photographs supported the sketches. Inhabitants were asked to report  positive and negative elements in their street. The interviews showed that the inhabitants often used to live within the neighborhood for a long time, because they preferred the central location. The presences of parking and driving cars and scooters in the streets were the most mentioned disadvantages of this neighborhood. Therefore, inhabitants generally do not have many connections with outdoors. Lots of plinth areas were filled with small parking garages, cars and scooters. Some buildings contained working functions on the ground floors, and occupants tended to keep doors open to the street. However, interview results revealed that there is no demand to sit outside the buildings because the streets feel uncomfortable, dangerous and dirty.

According to the interview results, residents of specific age groups defined the neighborhood quality differently. Young people liked the place at it is, due to its location close to city life. The somewhat chaotic atmosphere gave them a feeling of freedom. Only the lack of coffee shops as meeting points was regarded as a disadvantage. Generally elderly people dislike the area more due to the presence of cars on the roads and the absence of clear pedestrian space. Blocked views due to narrow roads bordered by high walls and buildings, as well as often hidden and dark house entrances were regarded as creating uncomfortable atmospheres. In order to create pleasant atmosphere some residents put flowers in front of their house entrances. The planning of new developments results in a passive and non-responsible attitude of local residents regarding the maintenance of their in their neighborhood.

 

In the framework of this workshop, students got a better understanding of the plinth, the intermediary zone to encounter on the ground floor level. In addition to the analysis work, students designed proposals for the improvement of the existing plinths. This design work was not an essential part of the assignment. Accordingly, these results illustrate the success of the workshop. The lessons learnt by students within the framework of this workshop were the starting basis for the design of urban redevelopment plans and mixed-use buildings.