The reintroduction of this 3. Cities around the world are recognizing the necessity of natural spaces within urban environments, and the widespread reverberations that accompany their implementation. The Cheonggyecheon Stream Restoration Project offers a powerful example of how an intriguing and ambitious landscape design can transform the nature of an entire city. Prior to the Joseon Dynasty around years-ago, the Cheonggyecheon ran naturally through Seoul, known then as the city of Hanyang. Over the centuries, slums developed along its banks, and it became a major conduit of sewage out of the city.
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The reintroduction of this 3. Cities around the world are recognizing the necessity of natural spaces within urban environments, and the widespread reverberations that accompany their implementation. The Cheonggyecheon Stream Restoration Project offers a powerful example of how an intriguing and ambitious landscape design can transform the nature of an entire city. Prior to the Joseon Dynasty around years-ago, the Cheonggyecheon ran naturally through Seoul, known then as the city of Hanyang.
Over the centuries, slums developed along its banks, and it became a major conduit of sewage out of the city. From the late s to the s, the stream was gradually buried beneath concrete and highways with the Cheonggye Expressway eventually running most of its length.
For decades following, the Cheonggyechon lay beneath the ground, dried-up, and largely forgotten. The Cheonggyecheon was not the only green space in Seoul that was converted to accommodate urban development during the mids. In the wake of the decades-long Japanese occupation and the ravages of the Korean War, s South Korea refocused its energy on the future and successfully ushered in an era of economic growth. By the s, however, this trending loss of allocated parks and natural landscapes began to change.
The Seoul Summer Olympics kick-started beautification efforts in the metropolitan area, and the drive to create more accessible green space in Seoul gained momentum throughout the s - s. Breakthrough designs in land reclamation soon followed.
In , World Cup Park transformed the surface of a year-old landfill containing 92 million tons of garbage, a project that took a total of seven years to complete - six years to stabilize the waste and one to build the park itself. That same year, the city unveiled Seonyudo Park located in the Han River, the site of a former filtration plant converted into a water purification park.
In , Seoul Forest opened providing an eco-forest, wetlands, and a center for nature field study. The expressway was in a state of decline; the area around it known for its noise and pollution. Thus the city faced the decision of whether or not to invest in repairs or tear it down. Lee offered yet another possibility - remove the expressway to resurrect the stream beneath it. The proposition was a risky one.
In , around , vehicles used the Cheonggye Expressway daily, and ramifications in terms of traffic and displaced shops could be substantial.
The project pressed forward. No design to this magnitude had been attempted in the city before. Its construction was not easy and took a total of two years and three months to build. There were rampant concerns in regards to safety and gentrification, and over 4, meetings were held to pacify alarmed business owners. It is important to mention, however, that an endeavor of this magnitude and complexity is rarely without flaws.
Key accessibility measures, such as elevators, were not installed on-site until public demands necessitated them, highlighting the importance of designing for all user groups from the onset of a project.
Pollution levels have dropped - an accomplishment of particular merit due to fact that prior to the redesign, area residents in this part of Seoul were twice as likely to contract respiratory disease compared to the rest of the city. Temperatures due to urban heat island effect have dropped, and notable social and economic benefits are readily apparent. Frequent events are hosted along the stream, a popular example being the annual lantern festival celebrating Korean culture and heritage.
There is an increasing recognition of the landscape architecture field, and I firmly believe that this discipline stands at the forefront of this reformed relationship between urban environments and natural spaces. With monumental precedents such as the Cheonggyecheon already successfully implemented, it is exciting to see what the future will bring to revitalized cities around the world.
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A City and Its Stream: The Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project
The stream that existed before its paving-over after the Korean War functioned not as a picturesque waterway but as a utilitarian open sewer for the entire city. Few can look at Cheonggyecheon — families, children, young couples on dates, office staff — and call it a net negative Anything would have counted as an improvement over that — or, much later, over the Cheonggye Expressway, grim photographs of which now line the walls of the Cheonggyecheon Stream, lest its many strollers forget what an eyesore the city has replaced. Yet few can look at everyone enjoying Cheonggyecheon Stream today — families and playing children, young couples on dates, office staff having after-work drinks, elderly picnickers, street musicians and their audiences — and call it a net negative for the city. To the extent that Lee intended it as a springboard to the presidency, the Cheonggyecheon also served his political ambitions well. The new stream became a Central Park-like gathering place here, tapped into a growing national emphasis on quality of life and immediately made the mayor a top presidential contender.
Urban Studies and Design Lab
Cheonggyecheon Stream Restoration Project