There are a few places I’ve been able to experience that were so visually distinctive and dense that there’s no way they could be ‘designed’. The old Inner Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo before it was bulldozed was one. NYC’s ABC Carpet in the early 2000s when it occupied the entire building was another sadly lost example. For the second post on the South Korea series, we’re taking a walk around a compact neighborhood in southwestern Seoul called the Mullae Artist Village. The area spans a number of blocks but by far the most interesting are a few streets where metal fabricators operate in open bay workshops. For any product designer, machine fanatic, or industrial music video location scout, this place is gold.
I honestly could have spent an entire afternoon here photographing, but since this is a business area I was trying to be respectful and not disturb anyone’s privacy or work. And really the photos only get a bit of what the atmosphere of this place is like. The narrow streets are flooded with sounds of large industrial presses punching all varieties of metal. There’s a near constant flow of small trucks dropping off stock and picking up everything from small CNC machined parts to 30′ steel I-beams. And it’s all basically out in the open.
I do hope this area can survive and maintain the atmosphere it has. There is some gentrification taking place in the neighborhood and it’s feeling something like a Williamsburg, Brooklyn recreation outside of the fabricators blocks. It is a place I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything like before. If you visit, Dorim-ro 128ga-gil and Dorim-ro 126-gil are the streets to walk, just be as invisible as possible and stay out of the bays.
문래방구 (Mullae Banguu)
Just around the corner from the fabrication area is Mullae Banguu at 763 Gyeongin-ro, a cafe/artist space that occupies a former steel shop. Inside, the overhead cranes and electrical control boxes remain. Seoul is a cafe crazed city and for designers, this one checks a lot of aesthetic boxes. The front area is filled with machinery, custom furniture and small art pieces. The back room is an open art studio offering classes and a shared creative work space for locals. It was a great place to stop for a drink and round out the industrial immersion tour of the area.
Photos and Text: Dave Pinter