Mountains and Apartments

I know, super original title. I could have gone with ‘mountains of apartments’, but that isn’t accurate.


Flying in to Seoul there are two things that stand out for most people: the mountains (80% of the cool Korea is mountains), and the apartment buildings sandwiched between the mountains, reaching up into the sky like Lego pieces waiting for a giant foot to stomp on them and curse their existence and their maker.

I used to think industry was a blight on the urban landscape

That is, assuming the land of morning calm isn’t shrouded in its famous mists. ‘Land of the morning calm’ is a random Chinese description of Korea that really needs an update (no, “Korea + adjective” doesn’t work).

I’ve been to rural towns where there are apartment buildings right next to rice fields. While not as big as those in the pictures about, the design is almost identical. The only visible difference being the builder’s name on the building.

Why all the sameness? Well, after the Korean War the government needed to build housing for its people as quickly as possible. There was also likely one government-appointed architect that came up with the spartan design that is so familiar today. And since space is a major issue for Korean cities, successive presidents probably saw no need to worry about apartment designs when they were focusing on catching up with the rest of the world.

So why does this continue now? Korea is now an advanced economy?! Space is still an issue. And perhaps people are just used to seeing their apartments looking like that. At least where I live, most of the apartment complexes are owned by the company that most of the residents work for. Obviously the interiors are different.

But there’s hope. Here’s a pair of buildings just outside my office.

The first design reminds me of the camouflage painting naval ships used during the world wars. Of course, those ships were just painted different shades of black and white because the world was black & white back then.

More pics and info for each ship can be found on their wikipedia pages

HMS Belfast

HMAS Yarra

USS Freedom

USS West Mahomet

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