The residents of this neighborhood have to maneuver through a maze-like series of winding narrow streets, alleys, stairs and ramps to get in and out of the neighborhood. There are no streets where you can see more than 50 meters in any straight line of sight. With three to five story buildings on either side of these narrow passages—barely wide enough for two people to pass shoulder-to-shoulder—a web of electrical wiring overhead and a continuous peripheral view of visual pollution, wayfinding has always been seen as a luxury that could never be afforded to this labyrinth of a neighborhood in central Seoul.
While the lack of wayfinding has mostly been a nuisance for visitors to the area and door-to-door delivery services, in recent years it has become evident that wayfinding has become a matter of life and death for its residents. With an aging population, medical emergencies have become much more commonplace. First responders have been unable to quickly respond to emergencies due to the maze-like structure of the neighborhood. Until now, there has never been a suitable wayfinding solution for this neighborhood, so city planners looked to YiEUM Partners to design a unique and effective solution that could potentially save lives while enhancing the quality of life in the area through wayfinding.
Design + Execution
The first step in coming to a solution was an intense study of the neighborhood—and accurate mapping of all paths in and out of the area. There weren’t any maps available for use because road maps revealed only the roadways used for vehicular traffic, while most residents use “non-existing” alleys and stairwells to get in and out of their homes. The design team thoroughly mapped out the area, noting which areas were stairs, ramps and pedestrian-only alleys in addition to all vehicle access points.
They then held a series of workshops with residents, fire fighters, EMTs and police to learn more about the neighborhood and its challenges. The YiEUM team was surprised to learn that even residents of the area could not find their house on a map, while fire fighters, EMTs and police admitted how much trouble they were having responding to calls since they would have to park somewhere along the outskirts of the area, find a way into the neighborhood, then scramble between buildings trying to find address and street signs that were barely visible.
The biggest “aha” moment came when walking through the neighborhood with police and local residents during an on-site investigation. One of the designers noticed that as residents, police, and others in our group were trying to find their location and bearing on a map, rather than looking around at eye level for existing signage, their first instinct was to try and look above the buildings for other known points of reference such as a neighboring high rise or apartment complex. This inspired the team to create a ‘skyline wayfinding’ proposal as a solution for this neighborhood. Being located up at sky-level was the best way to avoid all the problems that made existing signage nearly invisible in this environment.
Following the completion of the project, the feedback from residents and emergency responders has been incredibly positive. Residents expressed the convenience of using the numbered gates and skyline wayfinding signage to give directions to visitors and use as meet-up points.
Perhaps the most impactful feedback came from emergency responders who’ve been able to improve response times. For all these reasons, residents of the local community have since expressed to local officials that they now feel safer in their community
Seoul Metropolitan Government
Hyo Jin Kang, Eun Sun Kwon (master planners)
Jangwon Ahn (principal in charge)
Yeonji Lee (project manager)
Yangjeong Kim (designers)
Eunji Kim (designers)
Naeun Ham (designers)
Design ENY (fabricator)