Archive for the sustainability Category

Green roof sightings in Seoul

Daum Communications / Ilshin Building

Green roof tops Daum Communications / Ilshin Building, Seoul, Korea

Seoul is not known for it eco-friendly building designs, but a couple of buildings I encountered recently, which have significant green roofs, have made me thinks that there may be hope yet for this city.

A Green roof according the Wikipedia:

A green roof is a roof of a building that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and soil, or a growing medium, planted over a waterproofing membrane. This does not refer to roofs which are merely colored green, as with green roof shingles.

The most significant benefit of green roofs are:

  • Reduces cooling cost in the summer
  • Reduces the city’s average temperature
  • Reduces stormwater run off

The best known green roofs are Chicago City Hall, The GAP Headquarters and Ford Motor Company’s River Rouge Plant.

Daum Communications / Ilshin Building

Click image to view slideshow

Yesterday I visited the new offices of Daum Communications, the distant-second-but-nicer-place-to-work Korean portal site (#1 is It is housed in the newly completed Ilshin building in Hannam-dong which is also the home to the Italian embassy. On the roof of the building I was surprised to discover a green roof. The chairman/CEO of Ilshin Spinning, Kim Young Ho, the building’s owner, is no stranger to design and architecture, having graduated with an architecture degree from Pratt in NY, and served on the board of the Korean Institute of Architects and also know for his formidable modern art collection. The anecdote recounted by one of the Daum staff was that he delayed the opening of the staff cafeteria on the 2nd floor of the this building because he was not happy with the design of trays.

ewha Communications / Ilshin Building

Click image to view slideshow

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself at Ewha Womans University (Note: “Womans” is not a misspelling), one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Korea. I was very impressed by their recently completed the Ewha Campus Complex, which was designed by French architect, Dominique Perrault. The building itself unnoticeable at first glance since it is half buried in the ground, but this makes for an impressive green roof.

Dongdaemoon Design Plaza (photo:

Dongdaemoon Design Plaza

Ground was recently broken for Dongdaemun Design Plaza, which replaces the aging Dongdaemoon Sports Complex. The London-based architect Zaha Hadid was awarded the commission following an international competition. The most prominent feature of the design is its fluid surface green roof that weaves and connects the various part of the design.

Seoul, 15 years ago

Mapo, Seoul, 1994

Click image to view slideshow of Mapo redevelopment, 1994

Digging through some old photos, I found this set I took in 1994, of Mapo area, in Seoul. This area had been home to many informal settlers (so called “moon village” or 달동네) but had been “condemned” to be redeveloped and replaced by more of Seoul’s ubiquitous apartment blocks.

David Kilburn, in a comment to one of my previous post Hanoi: Think different wrote about Seoul:

… A Korean architect I know describes modern Seoul as a city designed to drive people insane. This is a far cry from Korea’s own architectural traditons where it was always important that buildings were designed to nestle harmoniously into the landscape, neither dominating nor destroying it. The geomantic ideas that are better known as the Chinese ‘Feng Shui’ were always important. Nowadays, the landscape is eradicated to pave the way for squadrons of identikit apartment blocks? Who benefits, certainly not the residents. The real beneficiaries are the owners of constructio companies, real estate speculators, and the corrupt politicians and bureaucrats who play their own role in detroying quality of life.

David has a very interesting documentary The Destruction of Kahoi Dong about the destruction of Han-ok’s (traditional Korean houses) in Seoul.

Telsa roadster Hot Wheels

Tesla Roaster Hot Wheels

Telsa Roadster Hot Wheels

The Tesla Roadster was included in a pack of Hot Wheels my wife bought for our 3 year-old son on a recent trip to the US. Nice.

Why does it not surprise me that there is a wiki page already on this toy.

Cities: the future of humanity

Here’s a presentation file for a lecture that I gave at my alma mater Yonsei University. Keep in mind this was an invited lecture to undergrad student in the architecture program as part of a class that fulfills their urban design requirement (read: not very academic).

International Symposium: Hanoi 2030

Hanoi 2030: International Symposium

Hanoi 2030: International Symposium

As if working on the 1st Report for the Hanoi master plan was not enough, between our reports to the Vietnam government steering committee and the Prime Minister, we held a 2-day international symposium April 21-22.

The main goal of the symposium was to gain a better understanding of Hanoi within a global context, by inviting prominent international experts and scholars who have studied or worked in Hanoi to provide their opinions on how Hanoi could develop through to 2030. These in turn would be reflected in the master plan the project I am working on is developing.

The key objectives and expectations were:

  • Invite international experts and knowledge leaders who have experience working in Hanoi/Vietnam to present their expertise and global perspective for the future development of Hanoi;
  • Identify potentials, drivers and assets that may shape Hanois future;
  • Discuss long-term goals and objectives for the sustainable development of Hanoi.

The main themes of the symposium were:

  • Heritage Preservation
  • Social Development
  • Hanoi and Environmentally Sustainable Future
  • Peri-urban Agriculture & Food Security
  • Issues of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Urban Management
  • Urban Challenges of Sustaining Economic Growth

The speakers were:

  • Jeremy CAREW-REID, Director, International Centre for Environmental Management
  • Michael DIGREGORIO, Ford Foundation (Vietnam) – program officer – Education and Scholarship; Media, Arts and Culture
  • Sylvie FANCHETTE, Geographer, Research Institute for Development (IRD)
  • Ana FIRMINO, Center of Studies for Geography and Regional Planning, Assistant Professor at New University of Lisbon
  • Shizuo IWATA, Director, ALMEC Corporation
  • Richard LEECH, Executive Director, CB Richard Ellis, Hanoi
  • Laurent PANDOLFI, Co-director, IMV
  • Christian PEDELAHORE, Docteur en Architecture. Architecte DPLG – Urbaniste SMUH
  • Paul SCHUTTENBELT, Planner/Governance expert, Urban Solutions
  • Leo VAN DEN BERG, Alterra Green World Research, The Netherlands
  • Michael WAIBEL, Senior Lecturer Department of Economic Geography, Hamburg University
  • Lawrie WILSON, Director of International Projects, Hansen Partnership

The symposium was closed to the public and limited to invited participants only, but we had a strong turnout and at one point the hall which sat about 200 was filled up. I played the part of moderator, with a list of questions prepared for our speakers in case the audience was not being responsive. Thankfully I did not need to ask too many questions.

Hanoi 2030: International Symposium

The general opinion from the experts were that Hanoi is a unique city, however it is in danger of losing these qualities if they are not properly protected through good planning, management and policies, enforcement of regulation and development of its assets. Of course these opinions were expected since I personally interviewed and invited the speakers who could support our goals and objectives of establishing a sustainable Hanoi. But all these experts had years of experience working in Hanoi, and it was apparent from their presentations and discussions that they truly loved Hanoi as much as the Vietnamese and this was the reason they continue to work in Hanoi and Vietnam. It’s not easy for an outsider to adopt a city, but in the case of these experts it was clear that they thought it worth their work and life to make the choice to stay.

I was left questioning, how many cities in Asia elicits such a dedication from the international community? Hanoi does seems to be in the spotlight these days, being the venue to many international conferences.