Seoul / Bridging the North and South of Cheonggyecheon (I) – the 22 bridges

In the era when Cheonggyecheon was the Cheonggye expressway, the whole elevated concrete structure was like a long wall separating the north and south of the Cheonggyecheon. (Fig. 1) Hawkers and other activities grew linearly along the space under the highway. (Fig. 2) While connecting the east and west of Gangbuk (north of Han river), the highway became a barrier dividing up the north and the south. With the restoration of the stream, the north and south are reconnected in different scale. In the smallest scale, there are 22 new and old bridges that connect the two sides of Cheonggyecheon.

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Fig. 1 © Seoul Metropolitan Government
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Fig. 2 © Seoul Metropolitan Government

The bridges opened up a new direction of circulation through the Gangbuk district, letting vehicles and people cross the Cheonggyecheon. This makes the circulation through the city centre a more convenient one, and creates a more integrated city fabric.

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Fig.3 © 2015, Seoul Metropolitan Government

In addition, the bridges also become a platform for figurative showcase. Among the 22 bridges, some of them are historical bridges being restored on site, some of them are newly designed bridges selected from international concept design competition. Their design bear various significance, with the main criteria of minimizing flow resistance of the stream and being in harmony with surrounding areas.

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Fig.4 © Seoul Metropolitan Government

The Gwangtong bridge a historical bridge existing on site since the Choson Dynasty. It was buried underground together with Cheonggyecheon during the time when it was covered, and was restored together with the stream, with the carefully digging and reconstructing of the pieces by the archeologists. It is described that “the discovery gave life to the stream brought back the past needed for the national imagination”. (Kal, 2011) While the Supyo bridge, is a reinterpretation of another old bridge built in that time at around 1420. The former is a historical witness of Cheonggyecheon and even the city of Seoul for over 600 years, and the two bridges are both tracing back to the roots of Seoul’s history and shaping the national cultural identity of the people.

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Fig. 5 Gwangtonggyo in Joseon Dynasty © 2005, Life in Korea
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Fig.6 Gwangtonggyo in 1953 © 2005, Life in Korea
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Fig.7 Gwangtonggyo now © 2014, The Seoul Guide

Some of the bridges refer back to the recent history, such as the Samil Bridge. This bridge is named in commemoration of Samil movement (or the 1st March movement) in 1919. At that time under the rule of the Japanese, 33 nationalists read the Korea Declaration of Independence at Tapgol park, a park still existing now at the north of this bridge, which led to the anti-Japanese demonstrations across the nation. This bridge is an artifact that demonstrates national identity and collectivity in another period of time.

Fig. 8 Samil Bridge © 2014, The Seoul Guide

Most of the bridges are newly designed. According to Seoul Metropolitan Government, they are selected from international concept design competition. They mainly have a modern form carrying certain significance. For instance, the Saebyeokdari bridge, where the Korean word “Saebyeok” means “dawn”, has a structure that “reflects nostalgia for the vitality of early morning market”, according to the travel guide from the Seoul government. These bridges link up past and present, expressing the cultural identity of the citizens.

Fig.9 Saebyeokdari Bridge © 2014, The Seoul Guide


Cheonggyecheon (Stream)/Dongdaemun Fashion Town. (n.d.). Retrieved December 21, 2015, from

Ecological Restoration Tour: Cheonggyecheon (Cheonggye Stream) 1. (n.d.). Retrieved December 21, 2015, from

Kwon, K.K. (n.d.). Cheong Gye Cheon Restoration Project – a revolution in Seoul. Seoul Metropolitan Government.

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