Beyond 72 Hours
Seoul, South Korea
Su-in Lee, Ho-jin Lim, In-ho Jung, Kyu-man Sim, Yun-gyeom Lee, Joon-haeng Lee, Seong-heon Lee
Faculty Advisor: Eujin Julia Kim
"Seoul, South Korea’s 72-Hour Urban Action competition offers teams a chance to design and build small public spaces in under three days, helping revitalize the city one pocket park at a time. This elegant, resourceful project reimagined and revitalized a tiny but challenging triangular site at a busy intersection, creatively using both natural and built elements to activate a previously ugly and underused public space, proving that landscape architecture can have a profound impact even at a very modest scale."
- 2019 Awards Jury
- Yongjun Jo
- Seohee Jang
- Jaehyun Lee
Small but gradual changes can be powerful. Since 2012, the Seoul Metropolitan Government has been implementing the "72 Hour Urban Action" competition to change leftover urban spaces, challenging professional and local participants to collaboratively design and build public space projects just in 3 days and nights. Starting from seven neglected urban pockets, today a total of sixty-six sites have been transformed into lively urban public spaces.
Our team is one of the selected teams to participate in the project in 2018. Our design project is based on the belief that small changes can add up to make big differences. Our team is composed of eight students majoring in Landscape Architecture at the Gangneung-Wonju National University, three landscape design professionals, and a borough official at the Gwangak-gu (one of the boroughs in Seoul) Office.
Does small land have small value? In the metropolitan area of Seoul, value of small piece of land may be larger than we expect. With the rapid pace of urbanization in Seoul, interest on public open space has been overlooked greatly. As a result, most of the land left behind the urban development process are small pocket spaces. How can we maximize the value of these mistreated spaces? What can be done within 72 hours?
The Seoul Metropolitan Government provided the guideline limiting construction hours as 72 hours for selected teams. Although the given hours were short, the government assured that they will strongly support all of the preparation work and public promotion of the event.
Our contradictory title of "Beyond 72 Hours" carries our strong confidence that simple design changes can cause social impact in local communities. The project intends for community and citizens to be naturally exposed to experience the changes of a small space and its impact. This can trigger citizen's interest on small public spaces and lead to larger vitalization of the area. In addition, the project has potential to expand spatially to other commercial streets and pocket spaces which have similar conditions, for example, battered, old repetitive lighting furniture in the nearby neighborhoods.
Location and Site Context
The site is a triangular-shaped small pocket rest area. It is located at the center of commercial districts and situated midway between the residential area and Sinlim subway station. The flowing population is heavy and people can usually encounter the site when commuting by subway. Seoul National University is within 10-minute driving distance and college students are one of major residents of this area. The site is surrounded by café, restaurants, and pubs. Although the location has great potential for various public events and activities, currently, the site was used as a dumping ground and heavily occupied with smokers, street homeless, and drunk people. There were a single zelkova tree and unmaintained shrubs, battered benches and bollards, fences, and old lighting furniture.
Existing Paving, New Brick Insertion, Planting Area
One issue of the site is that it lacks green space. To make balance between green and paving area, we removed existing old granite paving blocks (red line) and added planting area. Also, for new empty space, we inserted Spanish bricks which fits existing granite module system and has black color, making effective contrast with the existing granite color. We created new edge between planting space and new paving space using boundary stones. Existing zelkova tree in the center of the site was protected. We selected ground cover and herbaceous species to be planted around the zelkova tree.
New Urban Edge and Furniture
The site has a triangular shape. Two sides were surrounded by road and pedestrian way, and one side faced terrace of the pub. These different edge conditions were reflected to the design. First, for the edge facing the pedestrian way, the unmaintained boxwood shrubs and fences were replaced with 800mm-high Q-block wall with steel plate detail. This porous wall provides unique view of garden inside. For the other edge facing the road, we removed existing bollards which were coarsely arranged and unstable due to uneven ground. Instead of bollards, utilizing paving pattern, we intended to naturally lead vehicle users not to enter into the site. For the side facing restaurant and pub terrace, we added herbaceous plants to existing high planter and designed sitting bench under it. In accordance with the paving pattern, sitting benches were also designed with Spanish bricks. We also designed high coffee table (standing) highlighted with yellow steel plate tuned with the adjacent pub signboard.
The outdated, snowflake-shaped lighting fixture was pulled down with the help of borough official. Lighting frame was kept and repainted. Inspired by indoor furniture "shade", we proposed to transform this old frame to outdoor shading structure, so-called an "urban blind". For the new shade, we borrowed the form of blind which can adjust sunlight by rotating a series of horizontally long panels. This installation can function not only as a shade as needed, but also as a device for viewers to experience ever-changing urban landscape in more dynamic ways through the rotating panels. After testing the acrylic panels with different colors, transparency, and thickness, we selected the best one in terms of stability, strength, and visual effect.
Preparation and Construction Process
During the preparation stage, we conducted a 1:1 scale design mock-up with sample materials (i.e. Spanish bricks bench and acryl panel blind). We ordered necessary number of bricks. The selected acrylic panel was laser-cut and sent to a blind assembly factory. Steel plate design was delivered to a customizing factory. For site clearing, we consulted with on-site engineers from the borough office. One day before the construction, our team drew "removal line" using red tape. Based on the lines, construction workers removed existing granite paving as planned and pulled down all the battered furniture.
Construction of the proposed design began on June 28, 2018 and was completed on July 1, 2018. On the first day, we placed new paving materials (Spanish bricks) and fixed them. The gaps between each brick were delicately adjusted and filled in with grout. Lighting frame was cleaned and repainted. Finished acrylic blind arrived early in the evening and the five pieces of blind was installed.
On the second day, we completed all the paving works and finished edge with boundary stones. The concrete forming work was done for stable ground and Q-blocks were piled up on it. We started building high coffee table and benches. Each of the Spanish bricks was glued together using epoxy adhesive.
Finally on the last day, we weeded out and cleared planting area. All the planting materials arrived. Considering height and color, we arranged various herbaceous plants and planted them. Lastly, steel plates were delivered. We placed and glued them over the high table and Q-block wall.
Collaboration between Students, Professionals, and Borough Official
For the project, eight college students, three landscape designers, and a borough official collaborated together. The Seoul Metropolitan Government supported all of the processes involved. Once the participating teams were announced on April 27, 2018, there have been a series of formal and informal meetings. These include the second presentation with revised plan responding to the committee feedbacks (May 10, 2018), workshop session and meeting with borough officials (May 30, 2018), informal meeting with designated professionals, site visit, final plan presentation, and budget plan finalization (June 5, 2018).
Merchant association supported and participated in the design and construction process. They actively suggested ideas during site visits and they were reflected in the design. For example, the color scheme and the height of the Q block-wall were adjusted taking their opinions. The merchants adjacent to the site also provided water and needed tools during the construction.