Our proposal seeks to reinforce the Gyeonbokgung Palace as the symbolic heart of Seoul and the main element of the Gwanghwamun Square. We propose a symbolic void as a forecourt to the palace – a breathing space – that reminds of the palace’s historic sense of continuity with the public realm. A continuous tree cover emanates from its edges, integrating the palace with the fragmented cultural and public buildings along the stretch of the Square. This dilutes the visual dominance of the high-rises and enhances the walking experience by introducing a literal ‘breathing’ space in the city.

Thus tree-lined boulevards are distributed on either side of the currently isolated island of Gwanghwamun Square, while the roads move towards the central axis. This axis connecting the mountains to the north and south is believed to be where the peninsula’s “spirit” flows, and we propose to symbolically heighten it by extending the boulevards southwards. This would also integrate into the overall ensemble of the Seoul City Hall, Seoul Plaza and Deoksugung Palace.

The Palace forecourt essentially serves as a place of gathering, while the boulevard offers a place of movement. The forecourt offers emptiness, while the boulevard offers refuge under a canopy of trees. By combining these two kinds of ‘breathing’ spaces – which are seamlessly connected through pedestrian underpasses – both passive and active spaces, daily and non-daily spaces, with their respective and varied activities can be accommodated simultaneously. The Sejong Center for the Performing Arts and Sejongno Park are integrated as a seamless continuum of outdoor spaces with the boulevard. The spatial territory of the Gwanghwamun Square extends up till the old waterways to the west and east, thus integrating them into the overall schema, with an expanded green cover.

19: A Breathing Center, 2019
19: A Breathing Center, 2019 © Studio MADe