Before my first and second apartments, before the dormitories in college and the ones in boarding school, before even the home we moved into after my brother was born, I lived in forts. I was five, maybe—in any case, young and impressionable—and my father would take the large cardboard boxes in which some equally large objects had been packed and fashion them together into makeshift citadels.
I suppose he could have bought one of those bright, prefabricated plastic things they always display prominently in toy stores, but my father, shrewdly, didn’t. Cardboard boxes were easily discarded when I grew bored of them. The disposal, moreover, left the wallet feeling none the more aggrieved.
More pertinently to me, though, the boxes were infinitely malleable. They could be arranged in a hundred configurations, and because no overambitious manufacturer had thought to drench them in primary colors, they were a blank canvas on which to spill the mind.
I like to think that this was the start of an attraction to repurposed spaces, to abandoned buildings that someone had thought to love again. When I used to plan parties regularly, I would dream about how to transform a warehouse into a spectacle, a rooftop into a celebration.
Why I loved Common Ground upon sight was not only because it was a mall made of shipping containers but also because the first time I saw it, the entire space had been reimagined yet again as an outdoor beer festival. It felt like a barbecue at someone’s house, but larger, more unknown. Even upon revisiting, when the crowds had long since dispersed, I thought about that night, how here had been the grills spouting fragrant smoke, how here had hung the lights that transported me to a warm evening when I stumbled upon couples swing dancing in the square.
A couple hundred shipping containers have been painted brilliant blue and converted into a pop-up mall that houses an eclectic assortment of mid-range fashion labels and restaurants. Weekends often see Common Ground play host to exhibitions, live music performances, and food festivals. During normal operating hours, the concept may come across as slick, so time your visit to coincide with an event, when jovial crowds lend the space a more organic feel.
17-1 Jayang-dong, Gwangjin-gu, Seoul, South Korea
02 467 2747