In 2015, we joined forces with Architecture 00. Together, we enjoy collaborating in a shared environment where strategic, urban and social designers, architects, programmers and economists practice design beyond its traditional borders. 00 work with individuals, governments, corporations and communities to solve problems and anticipate change, and to design successful platforms and places. As a studio it aims to reach beyond the design of objects themselves to the social, economic and environmental systems behind them.

The Frozen Mountain

This project began as a piece of research into Nam-Hang market district, Busan, South Korea, close to where Je grew up. The research led to two proposals, the Nam-Hang by-pass and the Frozen Mountain. The column opposite outlines the background to the area and the by-pass proposal; whilst this column describes the Frozen Mountain.

Korea has an inseparable relationship with its mountains. Physically, as well as spiritually, mountains have played a vital role in Korean history. They were a physical divide between countries, landmarks with individual names to help you to navigate, and godly presences providing food and protection. Most Korean folklore and mythology stems from the nature of mountains and many mountains are considered sacred.

Given this familiar relationship with the scale of a mountain, Korean traditional artists were able to abstract the vast landscape of mountains into paintings, representing the beauty of the landscape within the limits of their medium. Perhaps it is this understanding of mountains that has contributed to the boldness and sheer scale of landscape fabrication in Korea.

Nam-Hang, like most Korean urban areas, has not enjoyed a wealth of open space. Due to Korea’s mountainous landscape, developable land is precious creating intensively occupied urban fabric hard up to a line, beyond which is unspoilt terrain. This balance should be revisited in order to give citizens space to breath and socialise.

This proposal seeks to open up the coastal area of Nam-Hang to the public by re-developing Nam-Hang’s fish market, which is at the scale of a small mountain, with consideration given to its surrounding landscape of mountains. This proposal is to achieve this by literally creating a mountain-like structure that houses the vast fish market and associated industries and in so doing allows the public access to more than 100,000 sq m of currently inaccessible land.

Korea has a long tradition of storing winter-harvested ice in earth chambers throughout the summer. The earth chambers are designed to keep the ice cool through naturally ventilated hill-like structures that take advantage of soil’s thermal mass.

The fish markets’ existing refrigeration units are built as high-rise concrete blocks. Compared with traditional earth chambers, these high-rise blocks have a high surface area to volume ratio making them much less thermally stable and requiring significant energy to keep their goods cold. These blocks take up an entire city quarter but offer little to the cityscape as they are essentially giant utilitarian freezers with no active frontage.

This project proposes to amalgamate the refrigeration units to reduce the exposed surfaces. The units would be located under a volume of earth in order to provide considerable thermal mass as well as insulation while at the same time creating a publically accessible landscape.

Within the market itself, access would be restricted to authorised personnel, prohibiting public access. However, the market would include a visitors centre and moreover the newly reclaimed, over 240,000 sqm (surface area) of the landscaped area will be completely open to the public. Vehicular access would be possible, but for authorised vehicles only.

As well as the thermally controlled storage units, the mountain houses a huge market floor at ground level that overlooks the water. The existing fish market currently operates as an enormously scaled up version of a traditional market. This simplistic model is inadequate for such a vast operation and as a result, there is a large (often inadvertent) black market. This proposal suggests a streamlined chain of sales, based on the system of the Tsukiji market, Tokyo. It introduces a clear role for intermediate whole-sellers who play a vital role in quality control in an open market.

Areas and Zoning

In brief, the proposal provides;

2 x 8,500 sqm of Sorting Area

17,000 sqm of Auction Floor

2x 5,700 sqm of Intermediate Wholesale Area

10,000 sqm of Delivery Area

25,000 sqm of Parking

18,000 sqm of Admin & Office spaces

11,000 sqm of Laboratory spaces

1.3 million cubic m of Temperature Controlled Starage

240,000 sqm of new open public space

One of the key aspects in the seafood industry is to keep the products fresh. Live fish need to be kept and transported in a controlled sea water tank. Recently caught fresh fish are highly perishable so quick, easy and streamlined movement is a vital part of the operation of the market. The fish market mountain would allow a modern market model to operate in conjunction with a thermally and logistically efficient processing and cold-storage infrastructure.

The landscaped top level of the mountain would be created with earth from the excavated seabed from the by-pass construction as well as making use of the waste from nearby quarries, which would otherwise be disposed to landfill. There is also a nearby river development which could provide around 70% of the required topsoil. Land reclamation and large-scale earth works are common practice in Korea and the technology to carry out the work and infrastructure to share material between developments are well established.

The landscaping would be kept as simple and native as possible. Tree species common to mountains within the area, known for their resilience against the salty environment would be proposed. The landscape could also offer the opportunity for future development. The structure would allow foundation fixing points on a grid which would allow the urban fabric to encroach on the frozen mountain, blending it into its surroundings. These developments could create a extraordinary city quarter, however, development should be carefully controlled to maintain a substantial public open space and protect the qualities that make this little urban mountain unique.

The refrigeration units produce a lot of heat energy. Currently, there is no provision to reuse this heat energy and it is simply pumped in to the sea.

The project proposes to use the produced heat energy to generate electricity throughout the year. The redundant heat energy will be stored in the ground thermal store through a Vertical Ground Heat Exchanger. This stored heat energy will be used to provide heating during the winter to surrounding developments.

The proposal also offers the opportunity for future development on the site. The structure allows foundation points on 8.2m x 8.2m grid. However, these developments should be carefully controlled within the density and height guidelines.

Busan has always been an important trading port between Korea and Japan, as well as an intermediate point between China and Japan. At the beginning of the fifteenth century, the Chosun government designated Busan as an official trading port with the Japanese and allowed their settlement, though trade was very restricted and only a limited number of settlers were permitted.

In the late nineteenth century, as trade with Japan increased, many more Japanese traders flooded into Busan. They settled in the areas now known as Chorliang and GuangBok-Dong on land reclaimed from tidal mud flats. This was the first urban plan to be implemented in Korea.

During the Japanese Occupation (1910-45), the city developed into a major gateway to Japan and went through rapid modernisation. Busan was the only city in Korea to adopt the steam tramway before electricity was introduced in 1924.

Busan was one of the few areas in Korea that remained under the control of South Korea throughout the Korean War (1950-3) and for some time it served as a temporary capital of the Republic of Korea. As a result, the city was a refugee camp for Koreans and the Nam-Hang (South Inner Harbour) area became a large market district, offering a wide range of products from fresh fish to electronics.

Busan’s Nam-Hang (South Inner Harbour) is now at a critical turning point. Its traditional market places have started to suffer as the traditional trade model is fast becoming obsolete. Many of its buildings were poorly constructed in the 60s and 70s and are coming to the end of their lifespans. The survival of the older, smaller scale buildings and streetscapes are threatened by skyscrapers planned with complete disregard for local considerations.

This project does not argue that all old buildings automatically be kept or that there is no place for shiny new developments, however many projects to date have been rushed through at the expense of insightful research and local understanding.

Before modern methods of transportation and refrigeration were introduced in Korea, fishing ports were the only places to get fresh fish. Moreover, as fish is a perishable product, handling, processing, storage, and sales necessarily occur in one place. As such, port markets consist not only of the simple sale of goods but the complex and institutionalised systems of production, commodification, exchange, and consumption. Subsequently, all types of fish-related industry developed surrounding this market creating a huge district of closely linked, interdependent industries.

This project looks at the re-organisation and development of the South Inner Harbour’s fish market area in response to current and emerging needs.

Nam-Hang By-pass Proposal

Nam-Hang is unique: in its use, function, origin, and as an icon of the city and country. It is not a shopping mall but a complex area that is home to a working harbour, fishing and associated industries, and a huge area of lively and diverse trade and retail markets, as well as restaurants, cinemas, cafes and other leisure uses. Most of Nam-Hang’s various markets are inter-woven and create a large market district. However, the waterfront markets are separated from the heart of the district by the substantial urban highway. This noisy through-road physically and visually disconnects Jagalchi from Nampo-Dong and the rest of the markets.

As the West side of the city has progressed with developments such as Gamchun-Hang and the new international harbour, Busan Metropolitan City has identified the need for a new wider through road. Their 2020 vision document includes a proposal for a new road on the waterfront. This proposal of re-directing the through traffic will strengthen the connection between the waterfront markets and the rest of the district but at the expense of the critical relationship with the water.

Nam-Hang has developed in close relationship with the waterfront. The waterfront market has a unique atmosphere and has become an icon of the city. These unique characteristics should be embraced and a bespoke solution should be developed.

This could be achieved by building this new road in a tunnel so creating a long public space on top of it that offers the waterfront back to the people of Busan. Large-scale earthworks and costal land reclamation are common in Korea and the technology and infrastructure to achieve such projects are well established.

This long public space would not be a garden or a park. It would be an active working place that people would use for selling fish, drying fish, fishing, repairing nets and boats, etc, as well as walking, partying, picnicking, and napping.

This space is Nam-Hang’s Madang. The city square is not a familiar urban typology in Korea but traditional urban fabric offers very generous external shared spaces in the form of the Madang. These spaces are not squares or gardens but more akin to yards or fields, where economic as well as recreational activities occur. Traditionally, these spaces were central to people’s day to day lives and played a vital role in building a sense of community.

Regrettably, during the rapid post-war urbanization, the value of these shared spaces was not recognised and they were eaten up by new developments.

This new submerged road would be an opportunity to serve the city’s transport needs, reconnect severed market areas, and reinstate much needed shared space and in doing so create a public landmark befitting this exceptional place.