Innovation Conference, Part II

TUESDAY, November 2, 2010 | BY
I recently attended the 2010 Architectural Record/Green Source Innovation Conference, and while all of the programs looked promising, I focused on one in particular – “The Making of a New Green City:  New Songdo City, South Korea.” Overall, the program was well-presented, informative, and touched upon many of the sustainability issues that challenge architects each day, and that we work to solve.
Green Master Planning in the 21st Century – KPF’s New Songdo City, Korea 

James von Klemperer, FAIA, Design Principal at Kohn Pederson Fox Associates (KPF) gave an excellent overview of KPF’s efforts over the past nine years in master planning and designing buildings for New Songdo City, Korea.  A completely new satellite city on the edge of Seoul, New Songdo City was initiated to help Korea remain competitive with its Asian neighbors in finance and business. Built on 1,200 acres of landfill, New Songdo City was, and is, an opportunity to design a city with the latest advances in integrated and sustainable infrastructure, land planning, and architecture. Klemperer compared the new city to previous Korean master planning attempts, which were based on earlier modernist ideals of “towers in the park” and separation of uses. New Songdo City seems much more sophisticated than these previous new city designs, with all components carefully considered to promote mixed uses, variety in urban scale and experience, and integration into the existing urban landscape.  All parts of the master plan, Klemperer stated, must produce a synergy to benefit the project’s equally important social, sustainable, and economic success.

Keeping with the conference’s Green Innovation theme, much of the presentation concentrated on the sustainability issues involved in designing a city from scratch. Klemperer noted that New Songdo City, one of only three Asian new cities accepted as a LEED-ND pilot project, includes the first LEED Certified convention center in Asia and such components as bike paths, a walkable scale, parks that filter and reuse rain water, and district scale hot water for heating and cooling, gray water filtration, and automated waste management.

It is amazing that New Songdo City is already one third complete with business and residential towers, mixed-use low-rise, schools, parks, and civic buildings that are inhabited. KPF’s New Songdo City’s master plan seems to avoid or solve many of the shortcomings of 20th century new city master plans: repetitive and anonymous building blocks, strict separation of uses, unsophisticated urban spaces that ignore human scale, disregard for pedestrian and public transportation, and no integration of sustainability measures. Many Asian and Middle East nations prefer this newer type of master planned city solution in order to develop and advance. It is important that the international architectural and planning community monitor how KPF’s Green Innovations at New Songdo City’s succeed, and how they can be applied to other similar developments.

New Songdo City may address questions raised by this type of development. Is constructing a completely new city more sustainable than developing within an existing urban setting?  Can a new city designed and constructed within a matter of years maintain a sense of place (that usually only comes with layers of history and culture) and avoid looking dated or frozen in time?  Time will tell as the New Songdo City master plan construction is completed and then evolves.


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