Reading about Seoul’s new 10-minute city one would imagine humankind had no other purpose but to develop spaces to increase productivity. One’s health, culture, interests – all merged to gear towards a mechanical efficiency that helps realize a very superficially drawn-out utopia. 

New Tech-Assisted Masterplan For A 10-Minute City In Seoul designed by UNStudio - Sheet1
Productive Living_© WAX and Virgin Lemon

Knowing the background for the development of this city helps make more sense of the matter, as the initiative was taken by the Hyundai Development Company to create a more digital neighborhood. One could liken this to when Henry Ford planned to move his workers out to his very own city, in pursuit of the uniform 9-5 that took over the entire world. Will the Hyundai company be successful in leaving their own trademark?

Flexible Living

Urban design has come a long way from the Roman cardo and decumanus, but the first step always revolves around the circulation of the city. T-junctions have been designed to facilitate natural movement as opposed to vehicular traffic, and distances are kept small in honor of the name – it really does take ten minutes to walk around to whichever space one needs to walk to. The circulation spaces spiral around three main plazas, connecting these socia spaces to areas allocated for the cultivation of local produce, encouraging more physical participation of individuals in the sphere of the city.

New Tech-Assisted Masterplan For A 10-Minute City In Seoul designed by UNStudio - Sheet2
The Modern Cardo and Decumanus_© WAX and Virgin Lemon

The landscape incorporates areas for “spontaneous” as well as planned human interaction, in hopes of fostering a closer-knit community that could eventually build the city together. Traditional Korean urban planning has been taken into account, for the residents of the new city to be able to relate to the native culture of the land.

Not only are the buildings designed to cater to efficient human movement around the city, but they are also adaptable in themselves. The eight, radial residential buildings are designed in layers according to the varying social needs of the inhabitants. This multi-generational apartment building is designed for people of all ages and professions, allowing for adaptable spaces in the spirit of futurism. These buildings can be converted into shared living spaces or walled for individual tenants, depending on the situation.

They also involve the use of advanced mechanization, including active solar technology that helps bring in more daylighting while minimizing solar gain. The infamous “Living Wall” can be moved around to create more dynamic social spaces in the residential apartments.

New Tech-Assisted Masterplan For A 10-Minute City In Seoul designed by UNStudio - Sheet3
Zoning Spaces_©

Development of the H1 Plan

The officetels ten minutes away from the residential buildings are a combination of office and living spaces, to help professionals settle into better work routines. Although the idea seems like a new take on office spaces, it is quite common to the more traditional manner of construction, where the lower floors of the building were allocated to business while the upper floors were designated dwelling areas. They are called “village communities”, after all, though the semantic appropriateness of that is something that would be for another day.

Architecture is, after all, more about reinventing spaces than it is about creating new ones since the architect aims to attract users and not to alienate them.

The H1 Plan was developed to create a city more focused on helping people live better lives, regardless of who gets to decide what it means to live a better life. The master planning focuses on cultivating a healthy dynamic between living and commercial areas, while also leading residents to create long-term habits that would prove productive for the entire community. Areas have been designated for urban planning and hydroponic farming. Not only has the UN Studio designed for the vegetable sustenance of the city, but the architects also ensured they created fitness and wellness areas where people could use their time to burn off the energy they consumed through their self-made produce.

New Tech-Assisted Masterplan For A 10-Minute City In Seoul designed by UNStudio - Sheet4
Community Building_© WAX and Virgin Lemon

Seoul’s heavy rainfall means that the amount of water that falls on the city would be an excellent resource if saved and utilized appropriately. To make Seoul’s rain productive, UN Studio proposed covering most horizontal surfaces with a layer of soil, which would help catch the water and send it through to the filtration system.

“Not only can the water be stored and used to irrigate the green landscapes, but the planting itself can also benefit the biodiversity on-site, whilst combatting the urban heat-island effect with vegetation,” said the studio.

Cities of the Future

Living in 2021, it is easy to get caught in dreams about futuristic cities, where technology and design can solve most human problems. Many theorists have their ideas on what constitutes a happy city, from some citing more playful ideas about dwelling and working spaces, to others stating more distinct, regular hours dedicated to each aspect of one’s life. 

New Tech-Assisted Masterplan For A 10-Minute City In Seoul designed by UNStudio - Sheet5
The Jetsons on Ground_©WAX and Virgin Lemon

The Kwangwoon University Station Redevelopment Area is an experimentative city of some sort, although similar ideas have been implemented in other areas of the world. How relevant it is to the area, though, demands more physical proof and can be analyzed once the city is functional. If the likes of Le Corbusier and Oscar Neimeyer needed time to develop their ideas, it is quite obvious to state that there are no architects who can really predict how their designs will fall through. All they can do is hope the public approves!


Quirke, J., 2021. UNStudio designs “10-minute” smart city in Seoul – Global Construction Review. [online] Global Construction Review. Available at: <> 

Studio, U., 2021. UNStudio – (Post-Corona) Flexibility and Adaptability Report – UNStudio <>. [online] Available at: <> 

Cutieru, A., 2021. Gallery of UN Studio Reveals Design of 10-Minute Neighbourhood for Seoul – 13. [online] ArchDaily. Available at: <> 


A recent graduate, Mahnoor combines her intensive studying with her love of adventure and fiction to create fresh storylines. A winner of the 2019 Literati Award, she now looks forward to working on her critical writing skills through this program. She hopes to release a series of architectural plays soon.