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New Songdo

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First World – Mixed Use Residential New Songdo Style

The Sharp (The #) First World is one of the first completed residential projects in the New Songdo International Business District. The property was designed by international architecture firm KPF, and Korean firm Kunwon.  The project opened in January of 2009 with a lighting ceremony to celebrate the project and residents began moving in shortly after. The Sharp (The #) First World is a luxury apartment and office-tel mixed use development with ground floor retail services. In total there are: 1,596 Residential Units, 1,058 Office-tel Units and 294 Ground Level Retail spaces. The Sharp (The #) is designed to  house approximately 7,000 of New Songdo’s projected 65,000 residents as well as a health club, a daycare center, and a seniors’ center. The complex is located next to New Song Convention center and near the  Northeast Asia Trade Tower and River Stone Mall, it is also near on of several planned subway stops on the yet to be completed system.

As is common with hotly anticipated properties in Korea all of the 1,596 residential units sold out within the first two days they were listed on the market.  To read more about this phenomenon take a look at our article ‘Real estate lotteries, bidding wars, and tax audits in New Songdo’.

New Songdo has master plan that lays out a number of sustainable principals and The Sharp (The #) First world follows these principals. The overall plan is inspired by the pedestrian cities of Europe and North America and the design utilizes a pedestrian-scaled street grid, engagement with the street through the use of continuous street walls, and plenty of open space.

In order to challenge the perception of the super-block as a single “housing estate” as evidenced by the realization of the Radiant City paradigm in urban areas throughout the peninsula, FWT was conceived instead as being an assemblage of distinct communities. An analysis of Korean social hierarchy (the Ma-Ul, the Dong-Ne, and the Yi-Woot) informed the organization of the FWT into four courtyard communities each of which is subdivided into three neighborhoods of approximately 200 households.

The traditional Korean built environment also influenced the design, wherein circulation through palaces and gardens is characterized by repeated shifts in orientation and displaced axes. At the perimeter, gates and seven-story street walls provide a sense of enclosure, beyond which densely planted interior courtyards are viewed through large scale “urban windows”.

Displacement is also a theme at an architectural scale, where the ashlar patterns of traditional garden walls inspired the exterior wall articulation. The discontinuous lines of these surfaces break down the vertiginous effect of windows more characteristic of high-rise building, and in so doing reduce the apparent scale of the development.

The design for FWT further addresses the profound problem of scale associated with the super block typology by varying building heights in a rhythmic, nonlinear progression. Within the framework of the buildings, scalar elements such as large apertures, arcades, and pavilions assist in translating very large elements down to the scale of the individual. S

Fact Sheet

  • Occupancy: January 2009
  • 1,596 Residential Units, 1,058 Officetel Units and 294 Ground Level Retail
  • All Units Sold Out
  • Buildable Area: 5.7M SF/531,670 SM
  • 12 Buildings from 3 to 64 Floors
  • 4,892 Car Parking Garage
  • Architect: KPF/Kunwom
  • Contractor: POSCO E&C
  • Pursuing LEED for NC Certification

Gale International

The Story Of New Songdo

The City of New Songdo or Songdo New City as it is known in Korea is the country’s bid to take city building into the future. City officials say that it will be a “compact, smart and green city,” at a press conference covered by The Korean Herald. Songdo is being built on reclaimed land in the western port city of Incheon, which is currently known more for the international airport, (which incidentally is rated one of the best in the world to fly through, and I can attest to from experience) S. New Songdo wants to change that and become known as a compact sustainable city that provides all necessary services in close proximity.

To achieve this goal the city will have facilities for business, health care, education, leisure, shopping and high tech industries all within a five kilometre radius. In the central city, residents will use bicycles or public transportation rather than cars to get around according to city officials, of course the six lane roads that form the block structure of the city and my experience with living in ‘green Ulsan’ (and its massive petrochemical complex) makes me wonder just how likely this assertion will be.

“(In the compact city,) all functions are located within the city center, unlike conventional cities which have a business complex in the center and the residential area in the suburbs,” Incheon Mayor Ahn Sang-soo said.

New Songdo residents may work in the 68-floor Northeast Asia Trade Tower that should be completed this year, or the 151-floor Incheon Tower set to to be completed in 2014. The city has a Central Park, which is Korea’s first park to have a seawater filled canal. Student in the city will go to “Songdo Global Campus,” which will host foreign universities like North Carolina State University and the State University of New York.

Incheon University Campus Proposal

The city is being wired by Cisco and will set up to allow residents to communicate through a variety of wired and wireless portals and devices based on ubiquitous computing technologies.

“The ‘smart’ city means a city equipped with ‘ubiquitous’ infrastructure that manages and control the city’s functions automatically at an optimal time. This enables the cost-effective management of the city,” Ahn said.

To learn more about New Songdo check out the article in The Korean Herald, or if you are interested in taking a look at the housing and office space options in New Songdo Check out our article on The Prau, or on The # First World. You can also take a look at what they are doing with container architecture.

A 100 million square foot new city on 1,500 acres. S

Commercial 40 million SF
Residential 35 million SF
Retail 10 million SF
Hospitality 5 million SF
Public Space 10 million SF


Much has been made of re-purposing shipping containers for other uses, the Korean designers over at AnL Studio have come up with an observatory made out of them in Songdo New City, Incheon, South Korea.

The new observatory is called OceanScope, and was designed for Songdo New city as part of the city’s mandate to be a new forward looking sustainable city. The structure has three containers placed at different angles placed at ten, 30 and 50 degrees so that visitors can ascend and look out  over the harbour.

In Korea old containers are often re-purposed and used as shelters in many rural areas in Korea because of their inexpensive cost. The problem however is that use of many of these temporary re-purposed containers don’t blend in with their surroundings and contribute to visual pollution.

The OceanScope is a response to an initiative from the Mayor of Incheon City, who is in charge of Songdo New City. Incheon is one of the biggest harbours in Korea and thus has a plethora of cast off shipping containers to work with. The Mayor challenged designers to tap the potential of unused containers for practical re-use in public spaces and to provide the bleak containers with a functional aesthetic that could be assimilated within rural and urban environments.

Fact Sheet

Project name : OceanScope
Client: Incheon Metropolitan City,Korea / Cho Dong-Am, Ahn Young-Sik
Program: Public Observatory
Location: Songdo New City, Incheon, South Korea
Architect & Designer: Keehyun Ahn, Minsoo Lee
Planning & Producing : Chang Gil-Hwang, Kim Yong-Bae
Photography by Park So-Young and Chang Gil-Hwang.

Real estate lotteries, bidding wars, and tax audits in New Songdo

The Prau is a mixed-use office-apartment building going up in the New Songdo free economic zone in South Korea. The instant smart city being built by Gale International, Cisco and other partners. Kolon construction is another of the partner firms involved in New Songdo and has built one of the most fiercely speculated on residential towers in the last couple of years. One of the unique things about the Korean real estate market is the lottery. Due to intense population demands and real estate speculation most affordable housing, or price stabilized housing is handed out using a lottery system. Put down your deposit and wait to see if you get lucky.

The Prau attracted a flurry of interest due to its relative low cost compared to other developments in the New Songdo area. Each Pyeong, (3.3m²) is priced at 6.5 million won which is about $6954 which is about 3 million won less then equivalent properties in near by buildings. The smallest units in the development at  55.98m² are expected to sell for about 65 million won or 56,705.742 USD. The units are especially hot because they are eligible for immediate resale because they are not in one of the ‘speculative areas.’ In the ‘speculative areas’ residents are not allowed to resell apartments that have not been occupied. Overall 257,706 people applied for the lottery of the 27 smallest units, (those under 66m²) with a required deposit of 5 million won. S 597,192 people applied in total for the 123 studio apartment/officetels.  As the building is a mixed apartment/officetel the units can be used as either residences or offices.

According to the Korea Times the National Tax Service intends to audit the 123 people who won the lottery for units in the building to hunt down speculative buyers and sellers. The government sent tax officials out to monitor the streets around the construction site and the showroom to monitor back-door sales of property rights.

“We decided to launch meticulous tax audits as the Songdo officetels can encourage speculative investment on the real estate market, which has been stabilized recently’’ S

Building the Urban Network

I came across an interesting article the other day while surfing the interweb about the future of new city building in Asia, (which is one of the few places in the world where cities spring up from scratch). In this age of bundling and value add ons comes a different vision of what a city is, how to make them more efficient, how they should be built, and how a couple of companies think they should be built. Estimates put spending on global infrastructure at $35 trillion over the next two decades and the new city market itself is likely to be worth at least $500 billion in the next ten years. How’s that for a growth industry?

Fast Company

Cisco’s Big Bet on New Songdo: Creating Cities From Scratch

By: Greg LindsayFebruary 1, 2010

The world is bracing for an influx of billions of new urbanites in the coming decades, and tech companies are rushing to build new green cities to house them. Are these companies creating a smarter metropolis — or just making money?

Stan Gale is exultant. The chairman of Gale International yanks off his tie, hitches up his pants, and mops the sweat and floppy hair from his brow. He’s beaming like a proud new papa, sprung from the waiting room and handing out cigars to whoever happens by. Beckoning me to follow, he saunters across eight lanes of traffic toward his baby, delivered prematurely days before.

Ten years ago, Gale was a builder and flipper of office parks who would eventually become known for knocking down the Boston landmark Filene’s Basement and replacing it with a hole in the ground. But Gale’s fate began to change in 2001 with a phone call from South Korea. The Korean government had found his firm on the Internet and made an offer everyone else had refused. The brief: Gale would borrow $35 billion from Korea’s banks and its biggest steel company, and use the money to build from scratch a city the size of downtown Boston, only taller and denser, on a muddy man-made island in the Yellow Sea. When Gale arrived to see the site, it was miles of open water. He signed anyway.

New Songdo City won’t be finished until 2015 at least, but in August, Gale cut the ribbon on the 100-acre “Central Park” modeled, like so much of the city, on Manhattan’s. Climbing on all sides will be a mix of low-rises and sleek spires — condos, offices, even South Korea’s tallest building, the 1,001-foot Northeast Asia Trade Tower. Strolling along the park’s canal, we hear cicadas buzzing, saws whining, and pile drivers pounding down to bedrock. I ask whether he’s stocked the canal with fish yet. “It’s four days old!” he splutters, forgetting he isn’t supposed to rest until the seventh.

As far as playing God (or SimCity) goes, New Songdo is the most ambitious instant city since Brasília 50 years ago. Brasília, of course, was an instant disaster: grandiose, monstrously overscale, and immediately encircled by slums. New Songdo has to be better because there’s a lot more riding on it than whether Gale can repay his loans. It has been hailed since conception as the experimental prototype community of tomorrow. A green city, it was LEED-certified from the get-go, designed to emit a third of the greenhouse gases of a typical metropolis its size (about 300,000 people during the day). It’s an “international business district” and an “aerotropolis” — a Western-oriented city more focused on the airport and China beyond than on Seoul. And it’s supposed to be a “smart city,” studded with chips talking to one another, designated as such years before IBM found its “Smarter Planet” religion.

Being seriously ahead of the curve explains why Gale had such a hard time finding a tech partner to bring this dream to fruition. First in line was LG, one of Korea’s homegrown conglomerates. None of its ideas had made it past the prototype stage. Next up was Microsoft, which signed a deal giving it carte blanche to mold the city in its image. “Designing an entirely new city from the ground up provides a unique opportunity to create an ideal technological infrastructure,” Bill Gates boasted. But before he could even measure for drapes, Gale decided a plumber would be a better fit and threw Microsoft over for Cisco.

Last spring, the networking giant became New Songdo’s exclusive supplier of digital plumbing. More than simply installing routers and switches — or even something so banal as citywide Wi-Fi — Cisco is expected to wire every square inch of the city with synapses. From the trunk lines running beneath the streets to the filaments branching through every wall and fixture, it promises this city will “run on information.” Cisco’s control room will be New Songdo’s brain stem.

And that’s just the beginning. No longer content to sell just plumbing, the company is teaming up with Gale, 3M, United Technologies (UTC), and the architects of Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF) to enter the instant-city business. At a Cisco event near New Songdo last summer, Gale stunned the room by announcing plans to eventually roll out 20 new cities across China and India, using New Songdo as a template. In the spirit of Moore’s Law, he says, each will be done faster, better, cheaper, year after year.

Cisco calls this Smart+Connected Communities initiative a potential $30 billion opportunity, a number based not only on the revenues from installation of the basic infrastructure but also on selling the consumer-facing hardware as well as the services layered on top of that hardware. Picture a Cisco-built digital infrastructure wired to Cisco’s TelePresence videoconferencing screens mounted in every home and office, with engineers listening, learning, and releasing new Cisco-branded bandwidth-hungry services in exchange for modest monthly fees. You’ve heard of software as a service? Well, Cisco intends to offer cities as a service, bundling urban necessities — water, power, traffic, telephony — into a single, Internet-enabled utility, taking a little extra off the top of every resident’s bill.

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