Seoul / Cheonggyecheon Linear Park as the Threshold of Constructing a New City

This restoration project is not just an individual case of urban renewal in Seoul. To a certain extent, its significance can be manifested on a larger scale, as a forerunner pushing forward other urban schemes. It can be regarded as part of the agenda in the master planning of the city.

Over the past few decades, the Gangnam area (southern part of Seoul) has undergone rapid development, while the CBD in Gangbuk (northern part of Seoul) is experiencing a slowdown in its growth. The restoration of the stream in Gangbuk became a threshold for the revitalization of this old downtown, with the renewal mainly focusing on the cultural and historical aspects.

“Along with the restoration, the old downtown will be re-generated as a historical and cultural center, a business and commercial center, and a center of tourism and shopping.” (Hwang, 2007)

In this downtown revitalization plan, a network system called CCB (Cheonggyecheon Cultural Belt) was established. There are in total 7 historical areas in Gangbuk with rich traditional resources being designated as cultural belts and are connected to the stream with pedestrian-friendly routes. Apart from the Cheonggyecheon linear park as the major belt, other belt areas include Bukchon, Namchon and Daehangno etc.

Screenshot 2015-12-07 03.55.29
Fig.1 Cultural belt and and pedestrian tour routes © 2007, Hwang Kee-Yeon

The restoration of Cheonggyecheon also pushed forward the implementation of other urban schemes in addition to the revitalization plan. Its significance on the later projects includes providing a topographical framework for later schemes and also as one of the focal points where the other new project grows along.

The Cheonggyecheon restoration project, completed in 2005, took the lead to become the forerunner of the “Urban Renaissance Master Plan of Downtown Seoul” in 2007. With the Cheonggyecheon lying across the central Gangbuk from west to east, four axes are placed perpendicular to the stream, connecting the northern part of the city to sourthern Namsan mountain, running through Gangbuk in another direction. They are themed as the “Historic Corridor”, “Digital Media Corridor”, “Green Corridor” and “Creative Corridor” respectively, aiming to revitalize the downtown with different strategies. Altogether with the Cheonggyecheon linear park, they became an extensive network spreading out in Gangbuk that alters the urban fabric and helps to boost cultural and economic activities in the area.

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Fig.2 The 4 corridors of Urban Renaissance Master Plan for Downtown Seoul © 2008, Seoul Metropolitan Government

Moreover, Cheonggyecheon also became a cultural hub where other related redevelopment projects emerged along. One of the examples is the Dongdaemun Design Plaza and Park completed in 2014. It is a redevelopment project of the old Dondaemun Stadium. It can be seen that the restoration project has a topographical significance where it has become a focal point to grow from and to develop a new cultural cluster in Gangbuk.

All of these cases manifested the significance of the Cheonggyecheon restoration project in reorganizing the urban fabric of the city, fostering the revitalization of the downtown to become a cultural district and thus balancing the development of Gangbuk and Gangnam. The restoration seems to be a project with a long term vision, benefitting the social, cultural and economic aspects of the city.

Fig.3 Map of Cheonggyecheon © 2010, Skip With Me
Fig.3 Map of Cheonggyecheon © 2010, Skip With Me

 

Reference:

  1. Hwang, Kee Yeon. “Cheonggyecheon Restoration and Downtown Revitalization.” HKIP & UPSC Conference on When Creative Industries Crossover with Cities, 2007, 82-89. Accessed December 7, 2015. http://www.hkip.org.hk/CI/paper/Prof. Hwang.pdf.
  2. Ng, Mun. Chido Ro Pon Sŏul 2007 = Thematic Maps of Seoul 2007. Ch’op’an. ed. Sŏul: Pŏmmunsa, 2008.

3 Comments on “Seoul / Cheonggyecheon Linear Park as the Threshold of Constructing a New City

  1. Looking for a wider picture of the effects caused by the revitalisation project, we might also want to look into sources other than the official reports, which might give us a conclusive narrative. It would be intriguing to know the effects and reactions in smaller scales such as the changes of the streetscene activities along the river, or even the rents and groups of people who would be attracted to the area during the time of construction and after.

  2. Having been to Cheonggyecheon, it is a excellent revitalisation project in terms of revitalising social, cultural as well as economic aspects of the city. Thanks to more and more convenient transportation, the living circles of people have been enlarged a lot by various transportation means ranging from flights to vehicles. And it has developed tourism in a large extent since more and more people can get to the place easily. Thus it has increased the economic value of historical and cultural aspects of the city. It is good to see that sustainable development can be achieved without neglecting the history of the city. Hong Kong, as a place with rich historical background as well, can learn from Seoul in terms of revitalising the city.

  3. The rebirth of Cheonggyecheon embodies a rich aspects of urban development issues including environmental concerns, political play, traffic congestion, urban renewal,etc. Acting as a belt, the project reactivated the surrounding area by making the place a commercial center and tourist destination with its natural landscape.While the integration of history and commerce now becomes a common practice in many cities, like the Xintiandi in Shanghai, disneyfication might be one of the potential problems if such practice is to be criticized. In the case of Cheonggyecheon,on one hand, we see the relocation of the original programs and the phenomenon of gentrification; while on the other hand, we see the region can be easily accessed by the citizens. It is worth investigating how the project is blended into the everyday life of the citizens. Is it a public space enjoyed bythe citizens or merely a tourist destination? Is social stratification one of the results of the project? A zoom-in scale might be helpful as Stephanie has suggested.

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