Zaha Hadid’s $450 million Dongdaemun Design Plaza has finally opened.
And yeah, not everyone’s happy with it.
People’s Commissar for Architecture Park Won-soon—who also doubles as Seoul’s mayor—had this to say about Seoul’s newest architectural landmark:
“When you look at the building and how it stands in its surroundings, which includes several high-rise structures such as the Doota building, the word that comes to mind is ‘unbalanced.’ You look at the building from a certain angle, how the sloped roof influences the skyline, and you have to say that is an ugly sight,’’ Park said at a meeting with senior journalists at city hall on Tuesday.
“Most of the job on DDP was already done by the time I became mayor. So was Gwanghwamun Square, described by many architects as the city’s worst architectural creation, and the new city hall,’’ he added.
“I did not think that redoing them would be the right approach as that would only create new problems. My focus is to find the right content to fill these spaces, allowing them to improve the lives of people with the experiences they provide and also provide an easier place for artists to display their work.’’
To be honest, I know where the mayor is coming from on this. I could talk all day about everything Park’s predecessor Oh Se-hoon did wrong, not just with Dongdaemun but also with the Floating Islands, Gwanghwamun Square, the new Seoul City Hall, the Hangang River Opera House fiasco and a lot of lesser known urban redevelopment projects. Park loathes monumental construction and redevelopment projects, which is a good thing more times than not, and he’s a whole lot better at utilizing existing spaces.
That said, “ugly” is very much a subjective thing. I went to the Dongdaemun Design Plaza every day since its opening save yesterday, and frankly, as a work of art, it’s absolutely stunning. But hey, don’t take my word for it—read what Mihn Hyun-jun, the man who designed the beautiful Seoul branch of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, had to say about it:
Mihn Hyun-jun, a professor at Hongik University’s School of Architecture and the person who designed the Seoul branch of the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, said that he believes the design plaza “is the best architecture designed by Hadid.”
“There are criticisms about the high cost,” said Mihn. “However, the outcome has perfect completeness, artistically speaking. It did cost a lot, but that’s the price we had to pay for Hadid’s design.
“It’s time for this country to have something new and fresh.”
And with all due respect to Mayor Park, and paraphrasing a commenter on my Facebook page, the only way you’d be able to get an architectural project to harmonize with its surroundings in Dongdaemun is by telling the architect to build it as ugly as possible.
Mihn also noted that in the case of Dongdaemun, “the form came first, then came the purpose.” Which can end in disaster—see the Floating Islands. Thankfully, Dongdaemun Design Plaza has opened with Seoul Fashion Week, an exhibit of national treasures from the Kansong Museum of Art and some other cool exhibitions; accordingly, it’s drawing in a ton of visitors, most of whom, from what I could tell, seemed sincerely impressed with what they were seeing… and there’s a lot to see.
Yours Truly has posted a ton of photos taken during the first few days of the Dongdaemun Design Plaza here.
Marmot’s Note: Sorry for my own personal lack of posting—been terribly busy and, frankly, a bit burned out. And thanks to all my cobloggers for posting some good stuff in the meantime.