A space that preserves the times of Seoul
Like humans, buildings have lives. Just as a person is born, grows, and dies, a building also disappears into history after being born and fulfilling its role according to the passage of time. When you think about everybody going through a countless number of events throughout their lives and how many structures continue to exist for across generations of lives, it's hard to fathom the number of stories each structure holds. Architecture joins history as it preserves not only the region but also the stories of the people who have stayed in it at one point or another. We will travel to 'a space that acts as a sort of time capsule,' telling us about the history of Seoul.
A Place Where the Past, Present, and Future of Seoul Coexist
#SeoulChildrenGrandPark #Kkummaru #GardenOfTime
Any Seoulite will remember playing at Children's Grand Park when they were young. This park, filled with the dreams and hopes of childhood, is actually a place that holds a painful history. This place was originally where the tomb of Empress Sunmyeong, the wife of Sunjung, the last king of the Joseon Dynasty, was enshrined. However, the tomb was moved to another location during the Japanese occupation, while a golf course was built for the Japanese and remained even after liberation. Kkummaru(Dream Park) in Children's Grand Park was Korea's first "clubhouse" for tourists visiting Korea.
Kkummaru also had to undergo many changes when the golf course was transformed into a grand park for children. After the opening of Children's Grand Park, Kkummaru was used for different purposes such as an academic hall, exhibition space, and superintendent's office. With each extension and reconstruction, the building lost its original qualities. Later, Kkummaru was able to recover its original structure that was iconic of Korea's modern and contemporary architecture through the hands of famous renovation architects, Cho Sung-ryong and Choon Choi. They erased the superimposed layers and filled the building with programs for a book cafe and picnic area to reintroduce it as a space to help children dream again, hence the Kkum (dream) part of the name.
Kkummaru, unlike its name that evokes the image of a fantastical space, is actually a majestic concrete area. From the entrance, a giant protruding piece of concrete overpowers its surroundings. Once inside, long concrete beams meet perpendicular to one another on the high ceilings, subduing the space to a calm atmosphere. Bringing the entire space together, the central staircase penetrates the whole building with neat, straight lines and quaint wooden floors.
Though it may appear to be a space of the past with its vintage exterior, the past, present and future coexist in Kkummaru. In particular, all the times of Kkummaru exist in the Garden of Time. The concrete structure remaining from its clubhouse days accentuates its time from the past. The warm sunlight gently falling between the historic concrete brings a sense of relaxation from the present. The landscape elements warmly wrapping around the gray concrete structure change throughout the seasons, adding color to the space and encourage you imagine what the future has in store.
A Former Oil Depot Transformed into a Cultural Regeneration Space
In 1973, the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War led to a global oil crisis. As oil prices continued to soar, the Korean government carved out slopes along the mountainside of Maebongsan Mountain to build tanks to stock up on oil. The oil storage base stored enough oil to be used by the citizens of Seoul for a month at the time. As a large amount of oil was stored, it was strictly controlled against access by the general public to prevent danger, such as fire.
The oil storage base, which was once a top security facility, was given new life when the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan was decided. As one of the World Cup stadiums was built right in front of the oil storage base, it was classified as a dangerous facility and closed in 2000. The oil storage base that had been hidden at the foot of Maebongsan Mountain had been slowly erased from everyone's memory, but through a design contest open to the public, it was transformed into a cultural space, rather than an oil container. The five tanks that used to store oil were dismantled and recycled to be reborn into the current six spaces of the Oil Tank Culture Park.
The past of this place can be perceived in the exterior, naturally corroded from using the recycled steel plates used to form the tank. T3, of which the original tank has been completely preserved, was recognized for its value and designated as a Seoul Future Heritage site in 2013. T4, which had been used to store kerosene, allows visitors to experience a unique sense of space with its transformation into a culture complex, where the echoes of days past remain.
When you walk out of the dark interior of T4 and follow the light that falls through the retaining walls, a tree growing out of the crevice of the wall captures your attention. All plants were prevented from growth during the site's use as an oil reserve due to risk of fire, but a paulownia tree started to grow skyward in a crack in the wall while the reserve was shut down, pointing to the universal passage of time that continues onward beyond our reach.