The Granite Tower
On Board the Yellow Train Towards Better Housing
Park Min Ha  |
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승인 2019.09.27  00:26:08
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▲ CEO Seo Yong-shik. Photographed by Nam Hye Bin
▲ Architectural visualization of Yellow Train One. Provided By Soomok Design Group Website

One would expect busy merchants and lively apartment buildings to be a common sight near universities, but the streets around the front gate of Korea University’s (KU) Seoul campus do not meet these expectations. Shops and restaurants come and go every semester, and many students have to deal with unsatisfactory and expensive housing options. However, Yellow Train One, a housing project launched by Soomok Design Group, should be able to please students with a master plan to transform the atmosphere around the front gate.

Soomok Design Group, a real estate and urban architecture company, officially launched its Yellow Train One project with an aim to develop and rediscover Jegi Five District. This is the area located between the front gate of KU and the Korea University Station, which has been the center of a decadelong conflict over redevelopment plans. After a collective decision made by the residents last year to abandon past plans, the Yellow Train One project comes as exciting news for the KU community.

The grand objective of the Yellow Train One project is to create a youthful village that provides street-style space for merchants on the first floor of the buildings and inexpensive sharehouse -style accommodation for students on the rest of the floors. The project will also include several community centers with colorful designs colorful design to move away from the conventional look of housing buildings, and smart-home systems, which offer technologically advanced services to facilitate everyday tasks.

Enhancing Communities through Architecture

Seo Yong-shik, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Soomok Design Group, revealed that the company plans to focus on enhancing community values and building a lively environment. With the construction of Yellow Train One in Jegi Five District, there will be an influx of people as the buildings provide satisfying options for both housing and small businesses. Rather than separating the accommodation and business sector, Seo decided to combine the two in the same building. Moreover, each building will also be physically connected to each other through adjacent walls. In an architectural sense, this approach will be helpful in maximizing land area and providing a friendly community vibe for residents as well.

The design of the Yellow Train One buildings is unique in various ways. The abstract beauty of the buildings displayed on Soomok Design Group’s website shows an almost hollowed-out look in certain areas. This open space , as the CEO defines it, represents a shift in the paradigm of housing. Conventional housing buildings usually have similar designs that tend to leave residents with an almost suffocating, empty space to decorate on their own. Seo believed that this is an example of “not having respect towards residents,” and expressed his wish that the new paradigm of housing should shift towards communication and respect for space. This illustrates that the town’s design is based on both the desires of residents and architects.

The Yellow Train One project will act as a sample for the residents. The community value could be strengthened as communication regarding what measures would further satisfy the residents’ housing needs is encouraged. This uncommon but important process will allow students, the likely residents of Yellow Train One, to have a say in their surroundings, which could eventually become a paradise for the KU community as the project expands into districts such as Jegi Seven District.

A Student-Centered Town

In line with the new paradigm of communication, the company will increase the number of community facilities and conjoined spaces in the neighborhood. As of now, these spaces are planned to include a library, public parking lots, study cafés, sports centers, and startup hubs, which will all primarily be there to help KU students. Seo stated that it is unfortunate to see such area so close to the university is underdeveloped and slum-like. Thus, Soomok Design Group plans on nurturing this area so that it gains more societal value, especially for students.

In combination with the greater number of community facilities, residents will be able to enjoy much lower housing fees. The accommodation will be sharehouse -style, which means
residents have the option to share their apartment space with others to save money and optimize living space. Seo explained that this implements the concept of the sharing economy and would help students to use their housing more efficiently with less burden.

For a Better Jegi Five District

Although the sound of a more lively, modern neighborhood is exciting, older residents or graduates of KU may be concerned at the possibility of the culture and memories of the town fading away. To promote the happiness of all residents, the Yellow Train One project has made efforts to minimize this and retain the essence of Jegi Five District. It has decided to construct buildings that are only four to five stories tall, rather than full-sized apartments that could accommodate more residents. Seo believes that the beauty and nostalgia of the areas around KU come from the memories of low-story houses and intends to build houses that suit this neighborhood rather than overwhelming its scale.

The Yellow Train One project will be the first of the Yellow Train projects to be completed by Soomok Design Group. The new buildings’ harmony with the atmosphere of Jegi District will become a successful model for the public and the government, and citizens from near or far may visit and increase the liveliness of the town even more. This change in the dynamics will be beneficial for the district’s merchants and will also act as a stepping stone for the rest of South Korea to develop in a similar manner and help other university students enjoy a better campus life.

Seo explained that the word yellow in the name of the project was inspired by the song “Yellow” (2000) by Coldplay. Just like how this popular band’s song conveys a sense of brightness and dedication, Seo felt that the new project would lift up the community around KU and give students the youthful campus atmosphere that they deserve. The construction is planned to be completed next year to hopefully improve Jegi District overall.

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