Image of the Week: Urban Development and The World Without Us

A few years back, I read an interesting and at times provocative book called The World Without Us. In it, the author describes what would happen if humans suddenly vanished from the world, how the world would slowly encroach and transform the world back to its natural state.

That feeling was very much evident in my trip to Songdo Business Area, a part of the Incheon Free Economic Zone outside Seoul. Billed as the future innovation hub of South Korea, the city seemed if anything a ghost town despite the gleaming glass and concrete towers that abounded. To be fair, I traveled on a weekend to what is essentially an office village, but there is still something eery about walking up a 6-lane road and barely seeing any cars in any direction.

While the city really is a paragon of progressive ideas in urban design and development, I am concerned about the almost utopian vision of its creators. Cities develop organically from the demands of their inhabitants, and cities like Songdo have a tough time adapting to those demands due to their insistence on uniformity and precision. The city is also almost 50 subway stops from downtown Seoul, making it difficult to connect the suburb to the urban core.

This week’s photos show the development of the city; next week I will show the two most bizarre landmarks the area has to offer.

The subway station for the Free Economic Zone doesn't have a sidewalk yet
Since there was no sidewalk, we walked the road instead
The city planner's have been quite up-front with their goals for the city
A model of the new city in the multimillion dollar museum devoted to explaining the goals for Incheon
The streets are still relatively empty in the built-portion of the city - only a handful of businesses have moved so far