Piano Street might have been my favorite feature of downtown Seoul. It was unique, distinctive, one-of-a-kind, and instantly identifiable - everybody knew "piano street". It was a reliable a meeting place, as automatically known, as City Hall Plaza, but without the occasionally awesome, but occasionally ham-handed Seoul Promotions. They dug it up a while ago, which blew my mind, and I thought, "They durn better replace it with something way cooler, because other than the broken glass panel thing, this little stretch has a good thing going. Well, they finished renovations. Get Scott Burgeson on the line, because now it's a groddy little strip where people sell crap, and what used to be one of the coolest features of the busiest part of Northern Seoul...now sucks.
Yeah. Seoul really needed another place where you can buy cheap crap. I was walking around Dongdaemun thinking that the other day. Or was it Namdaemun? Or was it ONE OF THE HUNDRED OTHER PLACES YOU CAN BUY CHEAP CRAP IN SEOUL (unlike the only Piano street in Seoul, which was, you know, singular). So, if this eyesore and pimatgol are any indication, it seem Korea's new strategy for urban renewal and revitalization is to take out cool stuff, and replace it with cookie-cutter stuff that sells crap, and has none of the character the original had. See, you know, I don't even have a problem with the idea that decrepit old buildings have to be dealt with... but the La Meilleur building is the bone you're going to toss those displaced restauranteurs on one of the tastiest strips of alley in Seoul? And a bunch of stalls selling useless crap is going to help tourists remember Seoul better than the awesome piano keys? Which yes-man has been whispering in Mayor Oh Se-hun's (오 세훈: I hope you find this on google and read it and cry) ear, and the supposed park space between Jongmyo and Namsan better be pretty goldurn awesome to win back my favor after this Pimat-Piano fiasco. (Oh yeah: not to mention almost getting away with trashing City Hall's lovely old building, as if it were his backyard shed and not ANOTHER of the city's most recognizable spots... in a city starving for recognizable images other than matchbox apartments. Discussion class after class tells me that Seoul, to join the ranks of the world-class cities, needs an instantly recognizable symbol -- an Eiffel Tower, a Statue of Liberty, a Golden Gate Bridge, a Shanghai Pearl, or a Sydney Opera House, to build the brand, so what the HELL are these people doing demolishing what few sweet landmarks there ARE?
What next? Han River Park Shopping Mall? Unesco Digital Market? Kyungju "Tomb" Underground Shopping Arcade? Starbucks in Changdeokgung? (Hey: there was one in the Forbidden City)
I mean, go ahead and make stuff better. You know. Tear down old stuff that isn't doing its job anymore, or that's uglifying the town... but replace it with something just as cool, wouldn't you? Sneak in some office buildings; I understand the need... but can you keep SOME of the winding alley-ways around? Fix up the buildings if need be, and see to it the coolest restaurants get spots in whatever preserved thingy remains... but do SOMETHING, would you? Instead of something unimpressive, modern (read: ugly and steel) and totally divorced from nature (isn't harmony with nature supposed to be the great thing about Gyungbokgung? By the way: nice trees in the plaza. Oh wait: they're NOT trees: they're shad-deficient metal dr-seuss abominations!)
How're those working out for you, then?
(image source... sorry for borrowing this gwn, but it's the only one I could find that illustrated my point about the tree-things)
Now Gord Sellar weighs in with the loss of Wonmisan. Seriously? Improving a mountain with stairs? And you're not allowed to take the other path, even if you WANT to? Yech.
Hand, meet forehead.