There is a growing trend among cities worldwide, old highways and railways are being turned into urban parks for the masses to enjoy year-round. Weaving its way through the urban landscape of Seoul, South Korea, a new skygarden has been built on a former inner city highway.
Traffic hasn’t graced the Seoul Station Overpass since 2009 (when it failed a government safety inspection), so the Seoul Skygarden is designed to make good use to the infrastructure in stages over time like New York City’s High Line. The Dutch architecture firm MVRDV was tasked with designing the park back in 2015, and in just two years, they’ve created a successful public space revitalizing and connecting public spaces near the main railway station that were previously fragmented by roads and rail tracks.
The goal is to make the concrete surface of the 9,661 square meters as green and free-time oriented as possible. The architects developed a modular, adaptable system. MVRDV creates a “library” of native plants that are structured according to their name in the Korean alphabet. The public 983m long park has been planted with 50 families of greenery, including trees, shrubs and flowers displayed in 645 tree pots, collecting around 228 species and sub-species.
“Our design offers a living dictionary of plants which are part of the natural heritage of South Korea and now, existing in the city center,” Winy Maas, founding partner of MVRDV, said. “The idea here is to connect city dwellers with nature, while at the same time also offering the opportunity of experiencing these amazing views to the Historical Seoul Station and Namdaemun Gate.”
While the park itself is the main attraction, the renovation of the former highway also incorporates shops, galleries, tea houses, a theater, information centers, maintenance boots and restaurants. At night, the park is lit up in blue light, a color which can help make plants healthier, however the color of the light can also be adjusted for events and festivals.
The elevated public park is open to all citizens 24 hours a day. That’s a big deal in a city where so much architecture and infrastructure tends to be corporate-sponsored, with special perks for paying customers of companies like Hyundai. Mayor Park Won-soon, a former human rights and anti-corruption activist, wanted to balance all those logos with public spaces that are more accessible to all.
All images via Ossip van Duivenbode.