Wolgok Youth Platform : Co-Living the City
By N H D M / Nahyun Hwang + David Eugin Moon
The Wolgok Youth Platform is an experimental youth housing project initiated by Habitat for Humanity Korea and the SeongBuk-Gu - a local government of Seoul. Due to the high cost of living and a competitive job market, the youths of Seoul represents one of its most under-supported demographic segments. 23% of the youths in Korea between age 20 and 34 live in makeshift, below standard informal homes, such as the Ji-Ha-Shil (basement), Ok-Top-Bang (rooftop additions), or Go-Shi-Bang (modified study carrels). A coincidental but appropriate acronym “Ji-Ok-Go,” roughly translated as “hell-like suffering,” reflects the hard-to-overcome circumstances that youths from low-income families face in the cities like Seoul where cycles of inherited poverty are perpetuated by the lack of housing options in their formative years.
Combining homes for underprivileged youths, their job platforms, and new public spaces, on a city owned lot, the project explores the notion of openness and sharing in collective housing typologies beyond the limitations of the highly commodified “A-Pa-Tu” complexes of Seoul and its more trendy alternative of interest group driven co-living collectives. The Platform frames an expanded notion of home that, while preserving individuality and intimacy, is open and tightly connected to and supported by collective operations of multiple scales in the city.
In recent years, the myth of a universal unit of home and its mismatch to the needs of contemporary demographics, and both historical and contemporary formats of collective or shared dwelling have been widely discussed. While these rising interests point to a direction beyond the mindless reproduction of conventional typologies, remarkably internalized realms of highly choreographed commercial co-living enterprises or frailing realities of under-supported public pilots only accentuate the disparities and shortcomings in the existing housing policy and market.
In imagining new prototype homes for low-income youths, the project posits the possibility of a transitional household that is flexibly distributed yet decidedly connective and transformative. Challenging the idea of home as a self-sufficient enclosure, the new homes, dispersed, stretched, and overlapped with one another throughout the building and the site, create important intersections with new public spaces and other networks within the city. In addition to the personal living spaces and areas shared with peers with varying choices of repose and interaction, the critical spaces for work in the ground level are combined with much needed neighborhood functions such as multi-purpose venues, classrooms, and a branch library, and become the key infrastructure for the collaboration between the residents, the neighborhood, and the city at large. The new public plaza above, transformed from a municipal surface parking lot, becomes a welcome open space for the youths and the neighborhood alike.
The project provides underprivileged youths of Seoul with a much needed spatial basis to foster their own stability and growth while instigating a renewed relationship between the city and its inhabitants. Actively framing new formats of living and expanded scales of sharing, the Wolgok Youth Platform posits the possibility of “co-living” the city, where rights to the city of the less privileged are leveraged alongside the necessities of the larger public.
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