The Old Provincial Hall is an iconic symbol in a town that, quite frankly, nobody outside of it has really heard of, with the exception of those who heard about the 1980 massacre. Gwangju has consistently promoted itself as the birthplace of Korean democracy---not only because of the 1980 protests but because of an earlier student demonstration as well---even in its bids for the 2013 and 2015 Universiades.
But upon taking a second look at the project---made possible because they put up a comprehensible English-language page since I last checked---I find it less objectionable than I did before. Oh, the name "Hub City of Asian Culture" is still ridiculous and presumptuous, but reading the designer's words I've softened up. An excerpt from the project "outline" page:
I had to grapple with ways to preserve and revive the dear memories of the site where the May 18 Democratic Uprising took place. I put the Square at the heart of the site and all other surrounding facilities below ground level in order to preserve and highlight the historically significant buildings such as the former home of the provincial office, police agency, and Sangmoo Hall. The entire space is to be enclosed by groves or forests.
I also had to consider the size of crowds that would gather at a given time. The Seoul City Hall Square accommodated 600,000 spectators during the 2002 World Cup and the Times Square in New York invites 750,000 people on any given New Year's Eve. The assumption in my design was that the May 18 Democracy Square would welcome some 300,000 people and serve as an iconic urban site.
Next, I wanted to create a kind of space in the busy center of the city that is more like a lung rather than a heart. What I mean by this is that there needs to be plenty of breathing space. The answer to this was a public park. I believed that lush greenery would definitely have an impact on the surrounding environment. I took into account the fact that since Mt. Mudeung, Sajik Park, Gwangju Stream, the urban railway site, and the defunct railway site form one extensive continuum, the 30,000 pyongs of greenery at the ACC could serve as a hub of vegetation in this region.
Furthermore, the overall layout would mirror a traditional Korean residential estate characterized by "a center and periphery." The outskirts would be decorated by a shrub of bamboo trees about 8 meters in width to create a scenic view from the facilities. I paid special attention to accessibility to the site straight from the underground metro system by connecting the two subway stations and the public park so that visitors can access the facilities from underground as easily as from ground level.
I feel that an introverted structure should have some extroverted features and so designed the facilities in a way that the indoors and outdoors directly lead to each other. Stairways, escalators, and elevators are placed appropriately so that the central square is connected to a part of the city.
Compare the above designs with how the rotary looked in 1999 (and looked up until construction got underway last year):
Chungjangno does get closed to traffic from time to time: for festivals, for demonstrations, and for May 18th reenactments. The area just to the west is a massive pedestrian area with clothing stores, restaurants, movie theaters, and night clubs, so it makes sense to convert the rotary into a park and pedestrian space as well. As it stands to cross the two thoroughfares you usually have to walk through the underground shopping mall and come up on the other side. And as it stands the area surrounding that pedestrian shopping area is unsightly and unused.
Anyway, I'll remind you that last year we learned the plan is experiencing massive financial losses, and is expected to in the future as well. Which leads to a follow-up comment on that Facebook thread:
When will they realise that culture isn't simply an expo hall.