The Impact of Urban Design Elements on the Successes and Failures of Modern Multi-family Housing: A Comparative Study of Robert Taylor Homes, Chicago and HanGang Apart Complex, Seoul

By Jae Seung Lee.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This study explores the role of urban design in the successes and failures of modern multi-family housing developments. Similar housing developments, which are high-rise multi-family apartments laid out in super-blocks, have been implemented around the world. However, their results have been polarized despite their similar urban design elements. To shed light on the contribution of design elements to successful housing developments, this study compares two housing projects: one is Robert Taylor Homes, Chicago, built in 1962, which was a miserable failure that ended up with its demolition in 2005. The other is HanGang Apart Complex in Seoul, which has been successful since its completion in 1971 and catalyzed massive developments of “Apart,” which is an abbreviation for “apartment,” in Seoul. The different outcomes of the two similar projects raise the following questions: What are the design elements that contributed to the successes and failures of modern multi-family housing? In what ways did these design elements influence the two housing projects? The goal of this study is to gain insight into better urban design strategies for housing development in two cities, Chicago and Seoul. To offer recommendations for urban designers and planners, the urban design theories are applied and modified to the findings drawn from the comparative analysis of the two projects. The study argues the following: spatial distinction and sequence, through a series of territory, promote the sense of neighborhood and ownership; linear retail strips invite not only residents but also strangers, which creates a vibrant public space and encourages more social activities; strategically enclosed neighborhood public spaces under natural surveillance provide amenities and promote social activities; diverse unit sizes and types invite various people in terms of income levels or occupations, thus supporting mixed-income neighborhoods.

Keywords: Urban Design, Modern Multi-Family Housing, Chicago, Seoul, Comparative Study, Territoriality, Linear Retail Strip, Neighborhood Public Space, Diverse Housing Choices

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp.21-40. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.815MB).

Dr. Jae Seung Lee

Ph.D. Candidate, City Design and Development Group, Urban Studies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

Jae Seung Lee is an architectural and urban designer and researcher whose practice and research have engaged the global cities of New York, Chicago, and Seoul. His research focuses on the relationships between the built environment and human behavior. Particularly, he explores the impact of the housing developments’ built environment on the residents’ social activities and travel patterns. He believes that in order to improve our urban environment, professionals should actively communicate with the general public, which led him to write a book about the urbanism of New York in 2008. This book, New York Streets that Aged with Time, published in Korea, is an introduction to urban history and theory related to significant places in Manhattan not only for architects but also for non-professionals. As a senior architect, he worked for Wondoshi Architects Group in Seoul for five years, workingon various architectural projects, such as offices, schools, and memorials. He received his Bachelor of Art and Engineering degrees from the Seoul National University and his Master of Architecture and urban design degrees from the University of Michigan.


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