SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA, January 21, 2019 – In 2021, Gwanghwamun Square will be transformed into a symbolic historical place of Korea, and into a place of democracy that opens 24 hours a day.
According to the plan, vehicle lanes running in front of the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts will be incorporated into the square, increasing its total size by 3.7 times. The underground space, which has been disconnected and divided into three places such as Haechi Plaza, will be integrated into one, creating an open space for all citizens. The ground and underground spaces will be connected by a sunken space, reconstructing the scenery of Gyeongbokgung Palace to Bugaksan Mountain, which is the core of downtown the city’s historical and cultural landscapes. It will also restore a historic scenery that leads to Bugaksan Mountain and the Hangang River.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government announced the final winning design of the international design contest on January 21. The winning design, titled “DEEP SURFACE: Awakening of Past and Future,” came through a 70 to 1 competition in which a total of 202 architects and landscape experts from 70 teams (38 teams from Korea and 32 from overseas) in 17 countries participated.
The final selection was made by the judging panel consisting of seven Korean and international experts including architect Hyo-Sang Seung (known as H-Sang Seung) who also serves as the Head of the Presidential Commission on Architecture Policy of Korea, Chair-Professor Yoo Hong-Joon at Myongji University, French architect Dominique Perrault, and Dutch architect Adriana Geuze.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government explained that the basic direction of the new Gwanghwamun Square is to restore 600-year history of the Gwanghwamun; to restore the citizenship that has underpinned Korea’s “square democracy” from the March First Independence Movement to the candlelight vigils; and to restore the “walkability” by expanding the underground space. With this direction, the city government intends to intimately connect the square to neighboring spaces.
The winning design aims to implement the following three goals, reflecting the basic direction made by the Seoul Metropolitan Government:
① to complete the national symbolic axis (from Bugaksan to Gwanghwamun Square, Sungnyemun Gate, Yongsan and the Hangang River) by restoring the Jujak-daero or Yukjo-geori, the main street of old Seoul;
② to create a space of “multi-layered memories” by connecting the ground and the underground spaces; and
③ to reconstruct the Korean landscape that encompasses nature and the city (from Bugaksan to Gyeongbokgung Palace and Gwanghwamun)
The concept of each space is “void (empty)” for the ground space and “solid (filling)” for the underground space. On the ground, a “History Square” will be built on the 36,000 square-meter site in front of the Gyeongbokgung Palace and 24,000 square meters of “Citizen’s Square” will be located to the south of the “History Square.”
Disorderly and poorly planned structures and installations will be cleared or rearranged on the ground so that the Gyeongbokgung Palace and Bugaksan Mountain will be seen from anywhere at the Square and diverse big-scale events can be held. To this end, a plan was proposed to relocate the statues of King Sejong the Great and Admiral Yi Sun-Shin to the site next to the Sejong Center for the Performing Arts and the site of the former Samgunbu, or the Military Affairs Office of the Joseon Dynasty (now the site in front of the Government Complex), respectively. The underground space will be filled with facilities for relaxing, education, and cultural events such as concerts and exhibitions that take place throughout the year.
The ground and the underground spaces are connected each other by a sunken space that will be built on a large site around the entrance to the “History Square,” extending to the subway station. So, visitors would enter the History Square while enjoying a panoramic view of Bugaksan and Gwanghwamun. The terraced garden with steps is expected to become a place of relaxation and meeting.
Neighboring buildings will also become part of the Square. Café terraces, floor fountains, and mini-parks are created between the square and the buildings, and the media façade shown on the buildings will provide unique views. Also, various kinds of trees will be planted between buildings and on the roofs to produce distinctive scenery of four seasons and create the downtown green axis expanding from Bugaksan to Gyeongbokgung and Gwanghwamun.
H-Sang Seung, the head of the judging panel, said, “The winning design presents the creation of a strong urban historical axis by emptying the ground space and ensures underground space around the Square to contain diverse civic activities. It improves the accessibility and comfort of citizens by featuring a sunken space.” He also explained that the new Gwanghwamun Square would provide a new opportunity to restore ordinary spaces of the citizens and recognize Seoul as a historic city when it is closely connected to the surrounding spaces instead of being disconnected by the traffic.
The winning team is given basic and working design rights. The Seoul Metropolitan Government plans to discuss detailed design scope with the winning team and conclude a design contract in February to finish the design by the end of this year. It will begin the construction in early next year and complete it by 2021.
After having an award ceremony at Seoul City Hall on January 25, all winning designs will be displayed at the lobby of Seoul City Hall, Haechi Square, and other major spots in the city.
Meanwhile, a total of 104 billion won will be invested in the Gwanghwamun project, among which 66.9 billion won will be from the city government and the remaining 37.1 billion won will come from the Cultural Heritage Administration.
The Seoul Metropolitan Government plans to listen to voices of residents, seek for alternatives and share the purpose and benefits of the project by holding town meetings and public hearings in the process of making concrete plans.
“In 2021, Seoul will have a symbolic space like Trafalgar Square in London and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris,” Seoul Mayor Park Won-Soon said. “People from various fields will participate in the Gwanghwamun project, so it will be a place for every citizen. In addition, we are seeking to make it a global attraction.”