American photographer Tom Coyner has resided in Seoul for over two decades. During that time, he has witnessed, and his camera has captured, its ongoing evolution.
Seoul, with its broad Han River and its magnificent mountain backdrop, boasts one of the most geographically attractive locations of any national capital. However, it has suffered multiple physical ravages in its recent history.
Street fighting during the Korean War destroyed various parts of the city. Even more destructive was the breakneck economic development that lasted from the mid-1960s to the late 1990s.
That saw the city’s face change radically, with the demolition of the “Old Seoul” of narrow alleys and cozy, tiled-roofed homes, replaced by massive and utilitarian buildings, from blocky office buildings to battalions of faceless, identical high-rise apartments.
The result was a depressingly unsightly, architecturally uninspiring city.
But from approximately the new millennium, a newly prosperous and increasingly sophisticated generation of Koreans has demanded better buildings.
As a result, many districts of the city have been transformed yet again. While this ongoing change has resulted in the destruction of almost, but not quite all, of the old and ambient back alleys, it has also led to an aesthetic renaissance of sorts as architects prioritize design as well as usage.
As is the case in megacities elsewhere across Asia, a key feature of modern commercial building are their vast glass facades. On clear days, such buildings serve as giant mirrors, their frontages sparkling with reflections of their neighbors.
This gallery, largely shot in and around Seoul’s epicenter, Gwanghwamun, captures the phenomenon.
To see a wider collection of similar images by Tom Coyner, please click here