THE NEW PUBLIC PARK IN SEOUL DOESN’T HAPPEN TO BE ANYWHERE BUT CLOSER TO THE SKY
In today’s architecture industry, the recycling or adaptation of an old structure or space that brings additional and more contemporary functionality remains a rising trend that is showing no signs of fading away. We have seen a good number of old buildings renovated into hotels, old houses turned hip restaurants or homestays, or even the case of large-scale infrastructure projects of the world’s leading metropolises such as the High Line in New York that transformed an unused elevated railway track into a 2-kilometer linear park. Not only that, but the High Line has also become one of the city’s most popular destinations for both New Yorkers and tourists alike, the park serving as a catalyst of the area’s urban development as witnessed by the blossoming of several pricy real-estate development projects designed by superstar architects whether it be Zaha Hadid, Rafael Viñoly, BIG or Studio Gang, to name a few.
A little while ago, a renovation of urban infrastructure similar to the High Line was initiated in Seoul. It is essentially the transformation of a deteriorating and unstandardized 45-year-old, 983-meter-long overpass into an elevated linear park that goes by the name of Seoullo 7017 Skygarden. With Seoul being the name of the city where the park is located, the number 70 is derived from the year 1970 when the overpass was first constructed while 17 refers to the year when the park officially opened for public use. Seoullo 7017 is a part of the government’s Seoul Station 7017 Project that aims to develop the land surrounding Seoul Station, including the overpass, to boost the area’s local economy. The decision not to demolish but instead readjust the infrastructure’s functionality comes from the government’s acknowledgement of the overpass’ historical value, which is living proof of South Korea’s glorious industrial development era, as well as its potential as a new important hub that will be linking with Eurasian Railway’s network in the future.
MVRDV, the studio that won the project’s design competition organized back in 2015 reconfigured the physical characteristics of the overpass by filling up the space of the linear park with 645 tree pots, housing over 24,000 plants (trees, shrubs and flowers) that were newly planted and many of which will grow to their final heights over the next decade. The park is divided into different zones according to different colors and smells of the plants. The overall vibe of this plant village will alter through the change of seasons such as the bright orange of the Maple trees that will make an appearance during autumn after the blooming pinkness of the Sakura and Azalea in the spring. The fully grown pine trees will keep the park green with their thick, succulent masses through winter while in summer, the inhabitants of and visitors to Seoul will get to see the plants that only reveal their beauty during the heated season. After its official opening and actual usage, we might have to wait a while to see exactly how and in what way the Seoullo 7017 that everyone has envisioned will turn out.
TEXT: JIRAWIT YAMKLEEB