10 April 2008

field trip #10: edae

after a long delay, here's post #2 of 2 on western seoul's sinchon neighborhood. click here for post #1.

i usually say that i live in sinchon, but my apartment is more precisely situated on the western edge of edae, a patch of western seoul anchored by ewha womans (sic) university. beyond the campus is a funky grid of narrow, car-unfriendly alleys packed with cheap hole-in-the-wall restaurants, clothing boutiques and other businesses popular among elite young women, like cafés, cosmetics stores, and beauty salons that advertise their connection to former miss korea's. walk east and you'll pass over 100 wedding boutiques (although the school didn't allow married women to enroll until 2003).

a hint of edae's bustle along "fashion street" (click for larger).

like its customers, edae prefers to wake up late and stay up late. each morning, when a steady line of women walk the half-kilometer from edae subway station towards campus, most of the shops on "fashion street" are still shuttered. but on the weekends, shops stay open past 11 pm when the alleys are packed tightly with young couples and packs of (mostly female) shoppers shop while munching on street meat. but, like everywhere else in this city it seems, edae is undergoing significant changes. just 2 years ago, several dozen 1-4 story buildings stood where a huge yes apm department store/residential tower does today. more consolidation is on the way.

looking up at the distinguished welch-ryang auditorium and some campus art.

the neighborhood's namesake has also underwent big physical changes. founded 120 years ago by methodist missionaries, ewha is the world's largest university for women (lucky me!). the name "ewha" means "pear blossom" and was bestowed by korea's emperor kojong. the campus' 74 buildings are considered by many to be korea's most beautiful college.

dominique perrault's concept for the ecc (from here).

after three years of construction, the ecc started taking its giant ramp shape last fall. this past month it finally opened and is currently being landscaped (from here).

for several years, the distinguished campus endured heavy construction, but now ewha students are enjoying the ewha campus center (ecc), an ambitious 3-year, 100-billion won ($102 million) project designed by paris-based architect, dominique perrault. the 66,000 square meter, 5-level structure is mostly underground, but a 25-meter-wide, 250-meter-long "campus valley" cuts through the center of the gently sloping hillside. the valley floor is granite and two high walls of steel and glass lead you towards a long granite staircase. the structure's roof is covered in trees, newly-planted grass, and jagged stone paths.

here she is just a couple of days into its grand opening last month.

opened in early march, the airy and impressive (tho still unfinished) ecc contains a library, cafeteria, fitness center, 40 seminar rooms, parking, administrative and sleeping rooms, as well as a 774-seat performance theater. formerly the site of ewha square and an athletic field, the site is the university's largest open space and its primary link with the surrounding neighborhood. according to one description, "it will establish organic relations between the center and surrounding areas of campus as well as between above ground and underground spaces." given the poor design or execution of many projects of this kind, i'm pretty impressed with the outcome.

getting there:

→ take subway line 2 to edae station (exit #1 or 2). walk north. to your left and right are edae's many shops. about 0.5 km ahead you'll meet ewha womans university's main gate and the ecc will be in view.
→ or, take one of several busses that go to sinchon train station (153) and walk east 0.25 km.

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