Dongdaemun Design Plaza

The Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) is quite a well known landmark in Seoul. Usually I try to steer clear of these places, because I try to show you different areas of Seoul that are less well known, but the DDP is so awesome that it can't be ignored by this blog. Besides, it was monsooning the whole week, where else was I supposed to go? 

If you're into photography at all, the DDP is a must visit. With its futuristic design and equally futuristic interior, it's the embodiment of modern Seoul. Gifted to Seoul's photographic community by the late Zaha Hadid (at least that's how I see it), it has been Seoul's most tagged location on Instagram in 2015. Although to be fair, the majority of those pictures are probably selfies of pretty girls trying to imitate a blowfish while making the victory sign, with some element of the building in the background. Anyway, there is some serious photography of the DDP done as well and there are several Korean dramas that use(d) it as a filmset. To make a long story short: it's a very popular place.

The exterior is something out of a SciFi movie

The exterior is something out of a SciFi movie

Stairs towards the park

Stairs towards the park

The plaza and bridge

The plaza and bridge

There are several things to do at the DDP besides taking pictures of every corner of this awesome building. Let me quote from the Visit Seoul website

The DDP is comprised of five halls: Art Hall, Museum, Design Lab, Design Market, and Dongdaemun History and Culture Park. The Art Hall is the primary launch pad for the Korean creative industry. The hall is a key venue for conventions, trade shows, exhibitions, fashion shows, concerts and performances. The Museum Hall brings together Korean design and global trends. The Museum Hall is comprised of five sections: Design Playground, Design Dulle-gil(trail), Design Museum, Design Exhibition Hall, and the Design Rest Area. The Design Lab serves as an incubator for rising Korean and international creative product designers. The Design Market is a multipurpose space that combines culture, experiences and shopping. This hall is open 24 hours a day to provide added convenience to visitors of Dongdaemun Market, the town that never sleeps.
— Visit Seoul

That is enough to occupy you for the day I recon. 

At the top of the staircase you can also go outside on a plaza on the roof. From there you can see the path going under the building.

On top of the roof

On top of the roof

In addition to the exterior, the interior looks futuristic as well. In one part there's a winding hallway that goes 4 stories down. It reminds me a bit of the movie 2001 A Space Odyssey. Unfortunately, some parts are quite dark so its not very easy to photograph in there. There's also a winding staircase that also makes for an interesting photographic subject.

Futuristic hallway

Futuristic hallway

The winding staircase

The winding staircase

When to go

There are good times to visit and there are bad times. If you're going for the art, the museum, or the exhibitions, a bad time would be on a Monday because not much is open. If you want to photograph the place, a good time would be the end of the afternoon and nighttime, or even better, when it rains. Somehow, the architecture of this building really fits gloomy weather. If it doesn't rain, try to go at the end of the afternoon so you can take full advantage of the golden hour (a few hours before sunset) as well as the night. Golden hour gives you warm tones on your pictures and at night the whole place is lit up and there is a whole new atmosphere and scene to photograph than during the daytime.

At nighttime the building is lit up

At nighttime the building is lit up

Even the stairs have lights

Even the stairs have lights

Under the bridge makes for a nice one point perspective photo

Under the bridge makes for a nice one point perspective photo

Thousands of led lights make an interesting scene. Although there have been talks of closing this thing down, it was still there when I visited.

Thousands of led lights make an interesting scene. Although there have been talks of closing this thing down, it was still there when I visited.

Nighttime and rain, the perfect combination

Nighttime and rain, the perfect combination

How to get there

Getting to the DDP is very easy. Just head to Dongdaemun History & Culture Park Station (동대문역사문화공원역, Line 2, 4, or 5) and get out at Exit 1. It will get you right to the plaza of the DDP.

If you would like to see the building from above, head to Exit 12 and enter the Lotte department store there. Go to the 9th floor with the elevator to the Klive experience, but instead of entering, go past it to the left where there's a cafe with a balcony. You can't use a tripod there though. Also it opens from 2 PM so don't go in the morning.

Click here to see a video with directions to both places.

DDP's official website: http://www.ddp.or.kr/MA010001/getInitPage.do

Address: 281, Eulji-ro, Jung-gu, Seoul (서울특별시 중구 을지로 281 (을지로7가))