in the past 20 years seoul has seen a remarkable transformation from being a backwater capital to one of asia's most affluent and thriving cities. its metropolitan population clocks in at 25.6 million - that means more than half of all south koreans live there! - and they've contributed massively to its stature as an economic powerhouse with global significance. the acquired riches have trickled down most households, and seoul is shifting gear to reinvent a new urban identity with the prerequisite range of architectural prestige projects. one of the new achievements that has just opened is dongdaemun design plaza, a massive mixed-use complex in the city's dongdaemun area, and designed by acclaimed london-based architect zaha hadid.
the structure replaces two stadiums and a market which once stood here, and accommodates a cluster of facilities, most notably a design center that should solidify the korean capital's position as a leading hub in design, fashion and technology in asia. the organically shaped building forms a symbiotic unity with its surroundings, the newly created history + culture park. it has a sleek and shiny façade made from a mosaic of aluminium panels. as it's backlit, the building has the remarkable ability to transform during the night. dongdaemun design plaza is more extensive than meets the eye as four of its eight floors are situated undergound. next to the aforementioned design center, the complex is home to a shopping mall, exhibition galleries, convention + seminar rooms, a library and an education center for kids and a sky lounge. location: 281 eulji-ro [dongdaemun].