Sogong’s Parking Lot, Unused Space in Central Seoul

Seoul Sogong Parking Lot

After a five minute walk from Myeong-dong, the most popular tourist destination in Seoul, I stood in front of a parking lot. It isn’t an underground parking garage or one of Korea’s infamous parking towers. It was nothing that anyone would expect in the center of one of the most densely populated cities in the world. The Sogong Parking Lot is a simple, one-level parking ground and the location right in the heart of Seoul. This post is going to take a look at the area and thanks to the contribution of a reader, we will show you an example of how this area could be developed.

The parking lot lies in the neighborhood Sogong-dong (소공동). There are the Lotte Hotel and Lotte department store of downtown Seoul, the first Starbucks of Korea, the Westin Chosun Hotel and some high-rise office building. The average height of buildings is between fifteen and twenty floors. The parking lot is unofficially referred as “Sogong Parking Lot” (소공 주차장). It occupies an area of 4,800 square meters and including the buildings on the eastern side it is over 6,000 square meters large.

A look in the history and the issue behind the parking lot gives this article. At first it may seem like the typical story of an investor, who fails to accumulate enough money to begin construction but the main obstacle is that owners of buildings right next to the land are not selling their property.  The potential of the land would be much higher with the additional land because a new construction would be directly on the street. Of course, the buildings have a pretty high value, even despite their age and ’emptiness’. The article calls the area the “golden plot”. It fits quite well because almost everything, which will be constructed their in the future, has a very high chance to be successful.

Enough theory, let’s begin the excursion through the area. That’s the entrance to the parking lot:

Sogong Parking Lot

In front of it you can see an entry to the underground shopping center of Myeong-dong. On the right are  three buildings with a variety of businesses and restaurants. On the left side are the buildings, which are necessary for a development of the plot. They look like this:

Sogong Parking Lot

The first two buildings from the right and the third building from the left are empty and abandoned. Other buildings have at least a shop or restaurant on the first floor. In total there are seven buildings:

Seoul Sogong Parking Lot

That’s the backside of the buildings with the parking lot:

Sogong Parking Lot

On this backside is an entry to a massage salon.

Seoul Parking Lot

From my observation the parking space isn’t used very efficient. The parking marks disappeared almost completely. The demand for parking space (or people, who know about this place) doesn’t seem to be very high. I couldn’t find out the parking fees. The whole place is managed by one person sitting in the booth at the entrance. So it isn’t like that someone earns a lot of money with providing parking space.

Sogang Parking Lot


Design Idea for Sogong Parking Lot

Now I’ll introduce you a design concept by Jason Houliston, a Master student in the department of architecture at Seoul National University. For a class he redesigned the parking lot of Sogong. The work is protected by the author and it isn’t allowed to copy, distribute or alternate his design concept. You can contact Jason at jason (dot) houliston (at) gmail (dot) com.

What I love about his concept is that it isn’t simply a hotel, department store or another tall office building. He proposes a mixed-use building, which includes a museum, some retail, a design factory and a small boutique hotel. Here you can see the design principles and floor plans for the first and second floor:

Sogong Lot Design Concept

The second panel shows the other two floor and the design of the building:

Sogong Lot Design Concept

Jason gives the following description of the urban design for his idea:

The Seoul Design Factory acts as an urban intervention by weaving into its surrounding urban fabric. In doing so, it serves as a thoroughfare, a public courtyard, and an iconic destination of dynamic design and culture. A pedestrian street runs along the west-east axis of the site, aligning and connecting itself with an existing pathway on the west, and the pedestrian crossing on the main road on the east. The pedestrian street connects the fine-grain commercial fabric on the west of the complex, with the larger-grain urban fabric to the east. This street for pedestrians is lined by a sequence of retail stores, displaying and selling the design products made within the complex. A coffee stop is located on this pedestrian street, so that it may become an important point in a citizen’s daily walk through the city. Alongside this pedestrian street is a generous shaded courtyard, open to the public. It acts as a social space, as well as an exhibition and workshop space, where designers may share their design products and design skills with the public. The pedestrian street steps down and becomes a social staircase at the east of the site, alongside the main road. This social staircase operates as a meeting place, while creating a smaller-scale pocket of space that responds to pedestrians within the city. The massing of the complex responds to the urban surrounding scale by stepping up from 4 floors on the southwest, to 7 floors on the northeast.

This example shows how a plot of this size can be used. The location has a lot of potential. Everything is better than a parking lot! Seoul recognized the importance of it and later this year they will unveil updated plans for this area.

About This Author

Co-Author of Kojects. Interested in Sustainable Transportation, Urbanism and Korea.


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  • […] to the Joongang Daily, with investors eager to put a new hotel on the spot. Nikola over at Kojects has a lot more information about this area, as well as a proposal for what could be built […]

    7 urban wastelands in Seoul - 4 years ago Reply

  • There’s quite a nice coffee shop in one of those almost-abandonned buildings (picture No. 2). If someone isn’t careful, they could end up with another Hongdae on their hands, as cheap space leads to artists moving in, followed by gentrification. ;-)

    Noah Body 4 years ago Reply

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