Songdo City, near Incheon 40 miles and about an hour’s drive outside Seoul, already is filling up, and it isn’t even fully built yet. When the first residential condos in the new International Business Zone developed by Gale International and masterplanned by Kohn Pederson Fox went on the market, they sold out in a day, or so say the architects. KPF has had an unusual opportunity to plan a new city from the ground up, literally. 250,000 persons will eventually occupy the 1500 acres of reclaimed land in the total Songdo site, in 3 scales of housing: low-rise (more to the taste of western purchasers), mid, and high-rise, apparently the Koreans favorite.
In addition to condos and rental properties at three scales, as well as Canal Housing, which combines flats with retail and food, Songdo already contains other KPF designs, including the first phase of a convention trade hall with massive trusses offering clear spans for trade events, an international school for k-12, a large urban green area complete with walking trails and a long pond called Central Park, and a tower (the Northeast Asia Trade Tower) that, when completed, will be the tallest in Korea at 305 meters (over 1000 feet). We walked the business district, a development that is primarily a huge construction site, not fully paved yet, so scuffed up our shoes and got a bit muddy, but so did the architects.
As we walked, we dodged the trucks that are packing in the asphalt pavement, getting ready for the August 2009 grand opening. However, along the way we got to peek inside structures such as the tower, which rises in a gently curving arc from the ground, from the inside out. Songdo is attracting worldwide attention, for its ambition, its investment, its sustainability, and its chutzpah: when have we seen such a completely planned new town from the ground up? The Chinese have taken notice, and are planning their own version of Songdo, yet to come.