Saturday, January 7, 2012

The 63 Building

Saturday night in Seoul - cold, breathy evening and looking for something to do ... inside, away from the chill outside. But where to go and what to do? My Russian friend had the brainstorm, "Let's go to the 63 Building!" Now, while I've been to the 63 Building several times, usually to see a show at the IMAX, I've never ventured to the top floor. And so there we went.

Surprisingly with the night being so chill, and of course the 63 Building isn't located in the heart of vibrant pulsating Seoul but is in the business district, there was hardly anyone around. We happily entered the building to warm up and then dawdled over to the ticketing counter for our "venture to the top". There were multiple package deals which included the acquarium, the IMAX, and I forget what all. We only bought tickets for ₩11,000 to the top floor and art gallery, because we got the ₩1,000 foreigner's discount. I'd never heard of a foreigner's discount but can easily see that it's a promotional tool for "foreigner's" to visit what are deemed in Korea as Hot-Spots and "places everyone should know about while visiting Seoul". Hmmm, it's the expats who get out and about, but we're always deemed as being foreigners and thus here short term. Anyway, semantics.

When the 63 Building was completed in 1985, it was the highest building outside of North America, and therefore, was (and still is to some extent) an object of great pride in Korea. Since 2010, the building is no longer in the top 100 tallest buildings of the world but with it's impressive height amongst the dwarf building around and its golden-sided panels, it stands proudly tall and regal overlooking the sensually curving Han River. [picture source]

The top floor contains a gallery of modern art by a handful of artists. Most of the people - principally families and couples - were not interested in the garish colored pictures, the swirls and kaleidoscopes of colors, and the stark black-and-whites. The majority were interested in the view, lovers were interested in sitting entwined in each other's arms gazing and whispering using a tool as a lover's pallette, and the youth were fascinated by the glass floor in one corner where a person could "step out" with nothing visibly below except ... a long crashing descending space to the pavement with toy cars ant-ing along below. I stepped out into the "nether space" but I certainly didn't linger. It was somewhat upsetting psychologically, especially when some young kids started jumping up and down violently right next to me. Ah, the invinsibility of youth!

A wishing wall was in the corridor just before the cafe. The wall held hearts with messages, and those messages were in a wide range of languages. They were messages not of young romantic love like the fence on Han Mountain with locks for lovers to "lock their love" via the symbolism of locks. Many of the messages I read were of more mature people who promised to continue their love relationship for yet another XX years, pledges of their hearts again or of their desire for some intangible thing to be realized. The majority that I read were from a mature audience, in touch with reality and focused on pledges and promises for a brighter future. Wishes involving material things seemed few and far between. Quite interesting! I did wonder, however, if when the wall became too cluttered, if some of the messages were clandestinely removed to free up space. There was only this corner for messages so freeing up space does make practical sense.

The rise was one minute and ears popped or felt pressure. Amazing speed! The descent another 1 minute with ears popping and again equalizing to ground pressure. What a pricey but interesting 1 hour. And then as we exited the elevator, my friend laughed and said, "Ah, they are so smart! The funnel all guests through their food court, haha, that's so smart! Now let's eat!" And we did what everyone does in Korea, the 1-cha 2-cha thing - the first round on an outing, the second rount, but we had no third round. We went back to my house and had tea and more talk on the warm ondol floor.

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