Seoul / Bridging the North and South of Cheonggyecheon (II) – the 4 axes and their realization

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The 4 corridors of Urban Renaissance Master Plan for Downtown Seoul © 2008, Seoul Metropolitan Government
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Fig. 2 Illustration of the 4 zones © 2011, Peter G. Rowe

Mentioned in one of the previous posts, the Urban Renaissance Master Plan for Downtown Seoul includes an extensive network topographically growing from the Cheonggyecheon restoration project, launched by the Seoul Metropolitan Government in 2007. It includes 4 themed corridors crossing the Cheonggyecheon in perpendicular direction, connecting the north and south of Gangbuk district. They are in fact a way of zoning, marking out 4 linear zones in the district as the corridors. According to each corridor’s theme, some new features will be built along the strip, linking up some existing spots or landmarks to form the themed “corridor” to revitalize the downtown in an organized and integrated way. Pedestrian network is to be formed connecting the attractions for the convenience of the visitors. Yet, though a thorough master plan is drawn, till now only a small portion of it has been realized in reality.

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Fig. 3 Rendering image of the Urban Renaissance Plan © 2008, Seoul Metropolitan Government
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Fig.4 Satellite image of Seoul © 2015, Google Earth

The first axis is the Historical Corridor in the western side, crossing the Cheonggyecheon linear park at its starting point, which is the Cheonggye Plaza. It connects some important historical sites of the city, including Gyeongbokgung Palace and Deoksugung Palace, Gwanghwamun Plaza, Songgyemun (one of the castle gates surrounding Seoul in Choson Dynasty), the Namdaemun market (a traditional market) and a few museums. It can also be considered as an administrative axis of the city, which connects some government buildings and offices. In the master plan, the government aims to create a green pedestrian walkway and improve the tourist attractions. Yet, it can be seen in the above 2 figures the difference between the current situation and the plan of the government, especially on the strip of greenery along the part of Sejong-daero Road right below Gyeongbokgung Palace.

The second axis is the Digital Media Corridor, connecting from the north Bukchon (a traditional Korean village), Insadong (a district famous for traditional antique and art), Myeong-dong (a famous shopping district) and the Namsan mountain. It is a corridor that features the creation of a new urban culture based on digital media technology, but till now there is no concrete implementation of the plan.

The third axis is the Green Corridor, connecting from the Jongmyo (Royal Shrine) through the Seun Arcade to Namsan mountain in the south. In this plan, the 4 mega buildings of the Seun Complex will be torn down and become a green strip. Part of the existing urban fabric in the Seun district will be redeveloped into high-rise buildings. Same with the other corridors, this project has also not yet been realized till today. Yet, in fact the project was already in its design stage, with numerous new buildings being designed through competitions. There are mainly two reasons for this. Firstly, it is due to “market uncertainties surrounding site redevelopment” (Rowe, 2011), with the scale of the project being prominently large with the involvement of numerous urban blocks. Moreover, the Seun complex, as the icons of the post-colonial modern era, also started to be considered as the object of historical preservation.

“Certainly by 2001, heritage restoration in Korea is officially extended to include 20th-century buildings. Even more recently, discussion was taken up to expand official preservation statutes particularly to significant “modernist” buildings. If these attitudes prevail it would seem hypocritical to dismissively demolish one of the modern period’s path-finding structures…” (Rowe, 2011)

This directly questions the Green Corridor plan from the most fundamental basis.

Lastly, the axis on the eastern side is the Creative Corridor. It connects various cultural districts of the city. They include Daehang-ro (a famous cultural street in the city), Heunginjimun (one of the old city gates), Dongdaemun market (a fashion town) and the Dongdaemun Design Plaza & Park. Among the 4 corridors in the Urban Renaissance Master Plan, this strip is being implemented most successfully. The old Dongdaemun stadium and its vicinity are redeveloped as the Dongdaemun Design Plaza and Park, dovetailing with the master plan. The Design Plaza, designed by the world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid, becomes a new cultural landmark of the city with a global vision and positioning. Together with the nearby fashion town, this corridor is hoped to become the hub Seoul’s design and fashion industry.

To sum up, the extent of implementation of the Urban Renaissance Master Plan for Downtown Seoul is very low. The concept of the 4 corridors is often mentioned as a strategy of urban planning in the official publications published by the Seoul Metropolitan Government since 2007. Nevertheless, it remains in question whether these plans will at last be completely realized as a master plan.

Reference

Ng, Mun. Chido Ro Pon Sŏul 2007 = Thematic Maps of Seoul 2007. Ch’op’an. ed. Sŏul: Pŏmmunsa, 2008.

Rowe, P. (2011). Emergent architectural territories in East Asian cities. Basel [Switzerland]: Birkhauser.

Urban Planning of Seoul. (2009). Seoul Metropolitan Government.

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