This article was originally published by Metropolis Magazine as "A Once-Maligned Concrete Megastructure in Seoul is Revitalized - Sans Gentrification".
Upon its completion in 1966, Sewoon Sangga, designed by prominent South Korean architect Kim Swoo-geun, was a groundbreaking residential and commercial megastructure consisting of eight multistory buildings covering a full kilometer in the heart of Seoul. Like other futuristic projects of the decade, it was conceived as a self-contained city, complete with amenities that included a park, an atrium, and a pedestrian deck. But construction realities crippled Kim’s utopian vision, compromising those features. By the late 1970s, Sewoon Sangga had shed residents and anchor retail outlets to newer, shinier developments in the wealthy Gangnam district across the river. Between Sewoon’s central location and plunging rents, the building became a hub for light industry—as well as illicit activity.