DIRTY, DARK, and deserted. These were the words that used to describe the underground pathway located in front of Yonsei University. The underground pathway was only used by pedestrians to get to the other side of the street, and it did not serve any other purpose. However, Yonsei University’s Enterprise Support Foundation in collaboration with the 53rd General Student Council, Collabo, renovated the run-down underground passageway to create a more meaningful space for Yonseians and the local community.
The abandoned history to the new birth
The underpass was first constructed in 1978 for people to get to the other side of the street. Back then, countless Yonsei University students and other pedestrians used the underpass to cross the broad and busy, Seongsan-ro, the main street that divides Yonsei University campus and the Sinchon district. However, as a pedestrian crossing was created above ground in 2014, the underground pathway was used less and less, causing it to be practically abandoned.
Though the pathway once connected Yonsei University to the rest of Sinchon, the pathway remained neglected, and became dilapidated, as pedestrians preferred to use the crossroads above ground. However, the Baekyang-ro project, as part of an effort to improve the appearance and image of the school, gave the underground pathway a makeover.
Last year, the Seoul Metropolitan Government, Yonsei University’s Entrepreneur Support Foundation and Collabo decided to develop a new purpose for the discarded space by gathering ideas from Yonsei University students. Most importantly, they did not want the pathway to be left unused and meaningless, and thus decided to gather opinions on how they can make this area a more useful place for the community. The aim was to create an active place for cultural activities and start-ups. Taking into account multiple opinions, the underpass was reborn.
Inside the underground
After just four months of construction, the 54-by-7-meter underground pathway reopened on July 26, 2016. The space is no longer the tarnished and ramshackled area we remember it to be. The gloomy and dark emptiness of the underground passageway has transformed into a brightly lit space with offices, a studio, and a small café opened to everyone.
The open space now includes the Seoul Start-up Café which provides an office space and mentoring programs for student entrepreneurs; and the Play and Relay Center has a studio where people can host small performances or aspiring musicians can use to practice their instruments. Moreover, the once-passageway now includes multiple seminar rooms which can be rented, and an indoor stage that can hold plays and exhibitions.Students can enjoy small concerts, discuss business plans with team members, or just have a relaxing time while sipping coffee. Students can sign up for these facilities through the Sinchon portal (http://play.sdm.go.kr > JOY > notice board).
Open from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., the Creative Play Center provides its facilities free of charge for everyone until the end of 2016. Furthermore, the center is planning to hold multiple indie film screenings, small-scale concerts and lectures to attract more people to start using this area. In fact, the Seodaemun-gu Office is currently in affiliation with artist associations and local organizations to host a variety of activities at the Creative Play Center. The center aims to create an area similar to Hongdae by holding these types of screenings and concerts. Hongdae is known to have a lot of indie scenery, which makes it a nice spot to enjoy music as well as indie themed screenings.Currently, there are not as many concert halls in Sinchon as there are in Hongdae. Jeong Yuri (Soph., UIC, Dept. of Econ.) said, “I’ve used a seminar room at the Creative Play Center before and while walking down to my seminar room, I could hear indie music playing at the small concert hall. Next time, if I have time, I would really like to check out the busking concert that was going on inside.”
More upcoming reconstruction
The Creative Play Center aims to bring a new vibe to Sinchon. Currently the majority of people who are using the space are students from nearby universities such as Yonsei University, Ewha Womans University and Sogang University. Some IT research groups and cultural organizations have also made reservations to use the area. Although busking performances are usually held outside on the streets of Sinchon, recently a busking performance was held at the center, where a group of around ten people came to enjoy the music.
However, as it is newly built, there are still some areas that the center needs to work on. Jeong commented, “There should be some notification by Collabo about upcoming events such as small concerts hosted at the Creative Play Center, so that more people would visit the center and attend the events.”
As part of the team who planned the new underground, Collabo still strives to make the center better. In an effort to improve this place, Jung Min-young (Cooperation & Independence Director, Collabo) claimed, “As the Creative Play Center is a new place, Collabo is still working on its general operation rules and publicity. We want to make the center an easily accessible area where people can come and go whenever they want.”
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Since the underground transformed from discarded to useful in such a short period of time, not a lot of people know of its existence. With many facilities and functions provided by the Creative Play Center, people can now make use of the newly renovated underground. The Seodaemun-gu Office and Collabo are ready to make this place more convenient and accessible not only for Yonsei University students but members of the whole community. The upcoming changes are what we can look forward to.