Legacy Regeneration

Gwanghwamun Square

The sprawling monumentalism of a historic square is lightly sliced by a gentle ring. Four resultant promenades subtly unearth the continuities of heritage within the contemporary urban fabric.

Are the expansive built remnants of the dynastic city obsolete in the modern city’s functioning?

At its noblest, built heritage is recognised for its intrinsic conservation value, yet often remains marketed as isolated objects strung together to form a city’s story. In the less romantic commercial view, individual built artefacts generate sufficient curiosity for tourism, but given the competition for space in leading urban centres, massive and empty historic squares appear less profitable.

Could the historic city square be revalued through minimally invasive, and tangibly productive, infrastructures?
The proposal for the New Gwanghwamun Square is a place of reflection and social exchange, and an important urban project to reorganise the symbolic heart of Seoul.

One of the main assets of the square is the monumentality and symbolism of its emptiness. Rather than demolishing this rare monumentality by filling the site, the project proposes one lightweight intervention: a single ring that encircles the square and unites urban programmes within it.

The Gwanghwamun History Path is an inhabitable linear structure that frames the square. The path gently rises and descends into the basement, setting up a sequence of functional spaces, access points and views.

The project strategically inserts a series of landscape objects (seats, waterscape, sunken garden) beside existing statues. These dispersed islands of objects activate four programmatic bands at a more intimate scale, while preserving the openness of the linear boulevard and view towards Gyeongbokgung Palace.

Year 2019 Location Seoul, South Korea Client Seoul Metropolitan Government Area 0.21 sqkm Status Competition