top of page
Understanding Hongdae,
A Growing Arts District of Seoul

*Below is a summary of our project-related research. If you would like more information, please reach out to us at

Understanding Hongdae,
A Growing Arts District of Seoul

How can we unlock the potential of Hongdae as a contemporary cultural hotbed in Seoul?

We identified strategies for redevelopment opportunities for a hotel situated in Hongdae, a prominent arts district in Korea and university neighborhood. Our team employed different methods to gather primary and secondary research. We went on site visits to observe and understand site entry methods and programming; conducted local interviews to gauge the atmosphere of the surrounding site and on-the-ground perspectives; referred to case studies regarding development integration along crowd movement lines and within a university neighborhood; analyzed mapping studies of pedestrian and vehicular flow/access; and investigated the site’s demographics and history. We crafted effective and creative solutions that informed the design of this development project.

Insight: Hongdae as a cultural arts district

Concentrations of art galleries, performance venues, design shops, and boutique cafes comprise the vibrant scene that draws thousands of Koreans to Hongdae every day. The region’s strong affiliations with Hongik University and surrounding art academies are central to its identity as a cultural incubator for young artists in Korea. Independent performance venues, theaters, and weekly flea markets (where students can sell their artwork) allow talented artists to thrive and create.

The most popular streets in Hongdae are themed, such as the famous Walkable Street. Popular retail and cultural shops cluster around both sides of the street; mural and graffiti paintings line the walls. These double-sided pedestrian themed roads create a uniquely dynamic shopping culture—one that can be best described as a human scale, winding and unlimited retail corridor experience.

  • Strategy. The development should be unique and appreciate art and culture,incorporating public performance spaces and art areas. By making connections with the university, we can explore possibilities of sharing spaces and programming. We should redesign the streets adjacent to the Seokyo Site as pedestrian double sided retail, control both sides of the alley, and limit car traffic.

Insight: College-oriented target market

As a function of its location and commercial programs, Hongdae is predominantly a college-oriented retail zone. The limited visitor demography calls for low-end retail stores and lower price positioning. In redeveloping Seokyo Hotel, we have the option to cater towards the prevailing retail customer or focus on a different segment.

While Hongdae is a locally student-dominated area, its regional location can attract a different demographic. Hongdae is situated relatively close to both Gim-po and Incheon International Airports. The incoming traffic from these airports into the city center naturally flows along the river, and passes quite close to the site. It also sits between two very strong business districts: Sang Am and Yeouido. Thus, Hongdae can compete for business travelers by taking advantage of the logical airport flow and proximity to other CBDs.

  • Strategy. By leveraging its regional location advantages, we can diversify Hongdae’s customer demographic and create a product with higher price positioning than suggested by existing student and population retail. We should initiate brand discussions to identify brands whose culture and values are in alignment with those of the new development.

Insight: Pedestrian flows

In order to participate in the commercial system of the area, the site will have to strategically feed pedestrian flow through the new development. In Hongdae, crowd movement is observed to be linear and dynamic — moving unceasingly along the small streets — rather than point or planar. Mapping studies indicate that the hotel site sits less than 100 meters from the major pedestrian flow lines and their resultant high-traffic rectangle. In the case of the Seokyo development, this distance means that there is room for each of the project’s programs to respond differently to this commercial system.

  • Strategy. On the street level, the existing pedestrian flow that bypasses the site should be diverted and invited. We can elect an existing building to act as a gateway for the new development. It can simply adapt an exterior sign to indicate that “something wonderful” is further down this street, or the building’s ground floor can be reprogrammed to have a functional relationship with the new development 100 meters away.

Insights and Strategies​​

Understanding Hongdae,
A Growing Arts District of Seoul

bottom of page