Narrated landscape as counterweight to perception of placelessness in contemporary urban landscape: Re-visioning place in Gwangbok -dong and Nampo -dong, Busan, South Korea
Although the contemporary commercial urban landscape is often assessed as placeless, this research proposes that even these seemingly anonymous places are repositories of thriving community values and meanings. Seeking a more complex reading, this research extends the scope of analysis from physical space to human use in order to reveal the longitudinal, emotional, and experiential perspectives of a living landscape. The site—the commercial districts of Gwangbok-dong and Nampo-dong in Busan, South Korea—is significant because the landscape is a place currently dominated by anonymous commercialization but has strong social history that has only minor traces in the existing landscape. Methods employed include interpretive-historical analysis, narrative inquiry, and ethnography and utilizes tactics of mapping, participant observation, and interviews. An analysis of the spatial history reveals that the current landscape of Gwangbok-dong and Nampo-dong is a result of South Korea's long relationship to Japan for commerce and governance, as well as the later Korean modernization process. Interviews with older residents reveal memories of the area as a melting pot of war refugees during the Korea War (1950-1953), as an essential commercial and black-market site during the difficult post-war period, as a place for leisure opportunities during the period of the industrial development (1960-80s), as a protest spa, during the fight for democracy, and as space of illusionary future under anonymous urban development. Observations reveal the site in constant friction as people struggle to claim the space for the public use, compete against high-end branded stores, seek alternative opportunities to socialize and relax, and strive to make a living between tradition and modernization. By studying the site from these three perspectives, this research was able to reveal unique place meanings of Gwangbok-dong and Nampo-dong as opposed to the perception of placelessness. An important result to this complex reading of place is its revelation of a rich historical evolution leading to current conditions, insight into personal meanings from long-term participants in the landscape who may not be the current decision-makers in current urban development, and patterns of use that reveal the landscape as multi-functioning resources that people modify and adapt to meet their daily needs.
0390: Landscape architecture