Streets as Spaces of Community Building: A Case Study of Urban Regeneration in Samdeok Maeul, Seoul

Asian Studies, 6(2), pp. 231-251
Faculty of Arts, University of Ljubljana | Ljubljana | 2018 | ISSN 2232-5131

Streets play rather diverse roles in the everyday lives of cities, which have changed considerably in recent decades. The South Korean capital of Seoul is no exception in this regard. Streets once used to be traditional centres of social and economic life, which thus affected the urban structure and identity of the city. The rapid growth of motorised traffic along with market-driven urban development gradually transformed the streets into traffic corridors, with a very limited role in reproducing and maintaining the communal life in localities. The Seoul Metropolitan Government and civil society, however, recently increased their efforts to improve walkability and recover streets as a part of public life in the city. The urban regeneration of Samdeok Maeul is an example of these efforts, where street renewal was carried out with of an aim of raising the quality of the living environment as well as enhancing community building. The case study of Samdeok Maeul can in this regard contribute to a better understanding of streets as spaces of community building as well as community-based urban regeneration, and the role of different stakeholders in it. The research results show that urban regeneration strengthened the communal importance of streets in Samdeok Maeul, which was mainly a result of civic participation in urban regeneration rather than the actual street renewal. Partnerships, which are in this way established between public institutions, civil society and residents, could lead towards socially more inclusive, just and sustainable urban development in Seoul and beyond.

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Recovering streets as communal space in localities: Urban regeneration of Samdeok Town in Seoul

With Park Hayun
Crossroads: Asian Streets in the Dynamics of Change, pp. 8-17
Heng Chye Kiang, Zhang Ye (eds.)
School of Design and Environment, National University of Singapore | Singapore | 2016 | ISBN 978-981-11-1812-8

Cities are faced with growing social and economic disparities, environmental problems and political tensions, which erode their capacity to effectively cope with social, economic and environmental risks. Community-based urban regeneration has been recognised as one of the key approaches that can help cities to achieve a socially inclusive and environmentally balanced urban development. While different views exist on the role of communal space for successful urban regeneration, recovery of local streets, plazas or parks is recognised to play a vital role in bringing together residents with different economic, social and cultural backgrounds. This is seen as an important step towards sustainable development of cities.

Seoul Metropolitan Government has recently placed community building and urban regeneration at the centre of their efforts to address social, economic and environmental challenges in the city. Community-based urban regeneration is expected to improve built environment as well as restore communal life and shared identities in localities. In result, there is also a growing interest in Seoul in recovering streets as spaces of everyday life.

This paper explores urban regeneration of Samdeok Town to understand the changing role of streets as communal space in localities. By taking the Residential Environment Management Project as a case study, this research focuses on how the community-building and urban regeneration affect perception of streets among the residents and their appropriation of streets as communal space in Samdeok Town. The authors conducted extensive fieldwork and attended community workshops as well as interviews with several residents, urban planners, community activists and researchers. The research results show that the perception of streets has been largely changed and the residents have successfully recovered them as their communal space, which played the key role in successful community-based urban regeneration of Samdeok Town.

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