Community-based Urban Development: Evolving Urban Paradigms in Singapore and Seoul

With Cho Im Sik
Springer | Singapore | FORTHCOMING | ISBN 978-981-10-1985-2

Community-based Urban DevelopmentThe book compares different approaches to urban development in Singapore and Seoul over the past decades, by focusing on community participation in the transformation of neighbourhoods and its impact on the built environment and communal life. Singapore and Seoul are known for their rapid economic growth and urbanisation under a strong control of developmental state in the past. However, these cities are at a critical crossroads of societal transformation, where participatory and community-based urban development is gaining importance. This new approach can be seen as a result of a changing relationship between the state and civil society, where an emerging partnership between both aims to overcome the limitations of earlier urban development. The book draws attention to the possibilities and challenges that these cities face while moving towards a more inclusive and socially sustainable post-developmental urbanisation. By applying a comparative perspective to understand the evolving urban paradigms in Singapore and Seoul, this unique and timely book offers insights for scholars, professionals and students interested in contemporary Asian urbanisation and its future trajectories.

Purchase the book.

Lessons from Wangsimni: Traditional industrial clusters in Seoul as social and cultural assets

Beyond Seun-Sangga: 16 Ideas to go beyond big plans, pp. 124-143
Hyeri Park, Vitnarae Kang (eds.)
Space Books | Seoul | 2015 | ISBN 979-11-87071-00-6

beyond seun-sangga

The Seun Arcade area is one of the remaining traditional industrial clusters in downtown Seoul. Most of these clusters date back to the early modern or even pre-modern times and were established along the major roads of Jongno, Euljiro and the former Cheonggye Expressway. Due to the continued transformation of downtown Seoul over the past few decades, many of these original clusters have already disappeared. Their transformation has often been legitimised as a seemingly unavoidable improvement of what were seen as economically underdeveloped or underused, socially decayed, unsafe or even dangerous urban areas. These places were at the same time portrayed as the unsightly legacy of South Korea’s developmentalist past, which should be eradicated and replaced by a new efforts in urban development.

Over many years of on-going urban redevelopment, these traditional industrial cluster have rarely been recognised as important social and cultural assets. Traditional industrial clusters are not only productive, but also dense social networks, which are largely based on thick interpersonal bonds of trust, a strong sense of solidarity among the member, and a shared communal culture. At the same time, the traditional industrial clusters also form distinct cultural forms, which express a particular history of the city, as well as of citizens and their everyday life.

Wangsimni is perhaps not the most representative of many traditional industrial clusters in Seoul. Nevertheless, it had a rather long history of small-sized industrial site. Small workshops, mostly for the metal industry, used to be integrated with larger productive and social networks. Industry has always been deeply intertwined with the everyday life of the area. In this sense, the transformation of Wangsimni offers valuable lessons about traditional industrial clusters, unfortunately now lost, along with its associated communal culture and everyday life, as a results of large-scale urban redevelopment.

Purchase the book.

Social cohesion and community gardens: comparing Slovenia and South Korea

Model Transfer of Social Ecology into Asian Territory, pp. 38-47
Alban Mannisi (eds.)
Zzac Book | Seoul | 2015 | ISBN 978-2-9535437-1-1

social ecologyCommunity gardens have gained a lot of attention over past years as an instrument of community-driven urban design, which can help cities address their social, economic and environmental problems. Although South Korea and Slovenia have not much in common at first sight, the Community Eco Urban Garden in Maribor, Slovenia’s second largest city, may provide a valuable example of not only how urban gardening improves the well-being of individuals, but also of how to integrate urban gardens into community-driven urban design in order to address larger social problems, such as lacking social cohesion and civic participation. Community gardens might be small in size, but they can play an important role in addressing negative social consequences of neoliberal policy, strengthening of social cohesion, and contributing to sustainable urban development.

Download the book.

Local responses to market-driven urban development in global cities

Teorija in praksa, 51.special edition, pp. 221-240
Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana | Ljubljana | 2014 | ISSN 0040-3598

Urban development has become an important instrument of neoliberal urban policy by which cities are trying to respond to global pressures and opportunities. Barcelona and Seoul are taken as case studies with different historical, cultural and institutional background, yet similar when it comes to how neoliberal urban policy and market-driven urban development are embedded into particular localities. The paper compares transformation of Poblenou in Barcelona and Wangsimni in Seoul in terms of planning approach, consequences on the everyday life in locality and local responses to market-driven urban development. Although its outcomes in Poblenou and Wangsimni were rather similar, the local responses were quite different. While the residents in Poblenou saw transformation of the neighbourhood as a threat to their collective identity, the residents in Wangsimni initially perceived it as an opportunity to improve their economic situation. The paper argues that local responses to market-driven urban development in this way reveal what Mlinar calls the mutual interdependence between individuation and globalisation. Although similar structural processes transform localities around the world, the later remain an important source of social and urban change in global cities.

Download the article.

Social role of urban parks in global cities: a case study of Cheonggyecheon Restoration, Seoul and Diagonal Mar Park, Barcelona

Asian Urban Places, pp. 7-15
Heng Chye Kiang, Oscar Carracedo García-Villalba, Zhang Ye (eds.)
School of Design and Environment, National University of Singapore | Singapore | 2014 | ISBN 978-981-09-3687-7

Provision of urban parks is considered to be an important instrument, which helps addressing social and territorial cohesion in global cities. Yet local governments strive to create new investment opportunities for global capital and provide spectacle for expanding tourism and cultural industries, which often makes urban parks into an instrument of competition between global cities rather than an effective approach, dealing with their social and environmental problems. Speculative urban development considers urban parks merely as an economic asset, which can be stripped off their social meanings, and turned into a commodity that can easily be marketed and consumed. The paper compares Cheonggyecheon Restoration in Seoul and Diagonal Mar Park in Barcelona to explore the changing social role of urban parks as urban commons and meaningful communal space in global cities. Cheonggyecheon is a large urban park in the downtown Seoul, constructed after the Cheonggye Expressway was demolished and an ancient stream was recovered on its place. It quickly became a popular public space and a new tourist attraction in Seoul. Diagonal Mar Park, constructed on a former industrial site in Barcelona, is less centrally located and is one among many urban parks in the city. Although the two parks seem to have little in common at first sight, the paper argues that the instrumentalisation of Cheonggyecheon and Diagonal Mar Park, in order to improve economic competitiveness and global appeal in Seoul and Barcelona, has negatively affected their social role in a similar way.

Download the article.

Transformation of Barcelona’s Eastern Waterfront: From the City Periphery to the Central Public Space in the City

City:Edge, pp. 51-59
Uroš Lobnik, Peter Šenk (eds.)
Založba Pivec & HAM Publications | Maribor | 2014 | ISBN 978-961-6897-65-5

The transformation of Barcelona’s eastern waterfront, between the Olympic Village, Poblenou and the new Forum, is a characteristic example of successful urban regeneration, where the former city periphery was developed into one of the central public spaces in the city. In order to fully understand urban regeneration process and its consequences on everyday life in the city, the paper examines both the urban planning approach and the historical and social background of the area. The large-scale transformation of the former periphery into a public space namely not only alters spatial relations, but it also affects social and symbolic relations in the city. The evolving civic awareness about importance of integrating the city periphery into everyday life in Barcelona contributed to the eventual success of urban regeneration.

Purchase the book.

Changing approaches to urban development in South Korea: From ‘clean and attractive global cities’ towards ‘hopeful communities’

International Development Planning Review, 35.4, pp. 395-418
Liverpool University Press | Liverpool | 2013 | ISSN 1474-6743
DOI 10.3828/idpr.2013.27

South Korea is one of the world’s most urbanised countries. While the country is well known for the rapid economic growth and massive urbanisation in the past, it is overlooked that approaches to urban development in South Korea are beginning to change. The paper addresses this by considering different urban design projects in the Seoul metropolitan region in terms of how they address the local history and culture, the quality of everyday life, economic competitiveness, diverse uses of public space and civic participation in decision-making. The Kkummaru Visitors Centre, Dongdaemun Design Plaza and Park, Bupyeong Culture Street and Gwanghwamun Plaza are discussed as case studies of recent urban design projects. While all cases show that novel approaches to urban development are taking place in South Korea, the paper argues that the urban design, which fails to sustain the existing social and cultural structures, to create inclusive places of social interaction or to involve citizens in the decision-making does not significantly differ from the past.

Download the article.

Legitimizing the Architecture of Edvard Ravnikar and Kim Swoo Geun. Between Regionalism and National Narratives

45+ Post-War Modern Architecture in Europe, pp. 13-24
Stephanie Herold, Biljana Stefanovska (eds.)
Forum Stadt- und Regionalplanung | Berlin | 2012 | ISBN 978-3-7983-2435-0

Slovenia and South Korea do not seem to have much in common at first sight. Yet both countries were affected in similar ways by economic, social and political changes during the post-war reconstruction. While Slovenia was a part of Tito’s communist Yugoslavia, general Park Chung-hee ruled South Korea. The new authoritarian regimes used every opportunity to consolidate their political power by controlling every bit of society. Architecture was no exception in this sense since the regimes systematically constructed and exploited important national projects to legitimize the dominant ideology. The paper attempts to address some of the practices, which were to legitimize the architecture and consequently the dominant ideology in modernizing Slovenia and South Korea. It compares the architecture and legitimization of the Regional People’s Committee in Kranj in Slovenia and Buyeo National Museum in South Korea, designed by Edvard Ravnikar and Kim Swoo Geun, who were two of the most prominent modernist architects in each country. Although they eagerly followed the principles of modernist architecture, the two buildings were also affected by what the architects perceived as regional and national culture. It seems that the legitimization of architecture in this case was not framed only by personal experiences or cultural references of the architects but also by the dominant ideology, which in Yugoslavia favoured cultural diversity, while in South Korea it strived for a strong and uniform national culture.

Download the book.

Comparing urban renewal in Barcelona and Seoul: urban management in conditions of competition among global cities

Asia Europe Journal, 10.1, pp. 21-39
with Matjaž Uršič
Springer Verlag | Berlin | 2012 | ISSN 1610-2932
DOI 10.1007/s10308-012-0319-1

Cities have become increasingly autonomous economic and political actors which actively respond to the pressures and opportunities of globalisation. Consequently, the urban management of any particular city is often based on the assumption that the city can improve its position against rival cities by efficiently managing its strategic resources and promoting its presumed advantages. Though such an approach to urban management may help cities to improve their global competitiveness and the quality of their residents’ everyday life, it can sometimes result in negative consequences at the local level, thus actually narrowing the development prospects of the cities in the end. This article discusses urban management against the backdrop of the competitive urban policy in Barcelona and Seoul, and compares the local consequences of urban renewal in both cities. Based on a comparison of the two cases of urban renewal, 22@ Activity District in Barcelona and the Cheonggyecheon restoration in Seoul, this article argues that, in conditions of competition among global cities, even very different approaches to urban management and urban renewal may result in similar consequences at the local level.

Download the article.

Selling global Seoul: competitive urban policy and symbolic reconstruction of cities

Revija za Sociologiju, 41.3, pp. 291-313
Croatian Sociological Association | Zagreb | 2011 | ISSN 0350-154X
DOI 10.5613/rzs.41.3.2

The paper focuses on a process of symbolic reconstruction of cities, where the existing image or meaning of places is purposely changed with the aim of attracting new investments, events or tourists to a particular city. The process of symbolic reconstruction is situated within the context of growing competition among cities. Symbolic reconstruction also affects tourism development in cities by providing an easily marketed and consumable image and meaning of places. The case of the Cheonggyecheon restoration in Seoul helps in understanding how symbolic reconstruction of cities is related to and affected by competitive urban policy, urban renewal and city marketing. Observing local consequences one can conclude that while the Cheonggyecheon restoration and resulting symbolic reconstruction of the city helped Cheonggyecheon to become the major tourist attraction and icon of global Seoul, it also resulted in a decline in local places and cultures. Such outcomes of urban renewal contradict strategic goals of urban policy and may prevail in the end over the benefits, which the Cheonggyecheon restoration brings to tourism development and everyday life in Seoul.

Download the article.