Seoul / Changing urban fabrics (I): Transformation of urban blocks along Cheonggyecheon
The long urban fabric of Cheonggyecheon goes through different spatial organizations and dimensions of urban blocks. The restoration project has inevitably brought about transformation in these blocks, forming a new city pattern along the stream that is different from the internal community away from the stream.
Overview of urban blocks along Cheonggyecheon (Rowe, 2011)
Before the restoration project commenced, the Cheonggyecheon area consisted of different organizations of urban fabrics, with large area dominated by low-rise houses dwelled with local merchants and residents. The urban structure of the area can be categorized into traditional district featuring small lots and narrow streets, grid-type districts arranged through subdivision projects and a large lot district adjusted through redevelopment. (Hwang, 2007) East to the Central Business District was the aggregation of merchants and light-industrial businesses due to the industrial development nearby. (Rowe, 2011) Several large blocks such as the Samil Building and Seun Sangga Complex was built in the developmental era.
Comparison of Cheonggyecheon neighbouring settlements between 2002 and 2015
In 2015, a decade after the restoration project was completed, gradual gentrification can be observed along Cheonggyecheon. Small settlements of 3-4 storeys are replaced by high-rise residential towers due to the rise in land value along the river. Some industrial landuse is also removed to make way for other development plans. These changes can be analysed by dividing the whole river into five segments.
At the starting point of Cheonggyecheon restoration project near the Cheonggye Plaza, the urban fabric consisting of larger office blocks do not experience great transformation. The international business complex for multinational regional headquarters and international financial institutions remain around Mugyo-dong, Da-dong and Samgak-dong area while more towers have been constructed in the area. (Hwang, 2007) They continue to serve as part of the hectic central business district in Seoul.
Near the Jongno area, the fabric of Dongdaemun cluster experienced a lot of changes due to the redevelopment plan of the area into a creative corridor. The Dongdaemun Stadium was demolished and replaced by Dongdaemun Design Plaza (DDP) and Park. Large shopping centres are also built opposite to the DDP to form an aggregation of fabric outlet.
Between Hwanghak-dong and Hongik-dong, large area of land at the southern edge of Cheonggyecheon was cleared to build large scale housing project. Lotte Castle Venecia, a 6-block residential cluster, was also completed to provide housing for more affluent dwellers. They could enjoy the nice environment, view and public space of the restored stream.
In the Dapsimni-dong area, a large area of small settlements farther away from the stream were removed for large scale housing development. Such change in urban fabric can also be observed at the corner at which Naebu Expressway start to superpose on the stream.
Near the end of the revitalized stream where it enters the Han River, industrial landuse is shrinking. Workshop started to be cleared away since 2010. Green belt is constructed along the restored stream for better pedestrian experience.
The urban fabrics are still undergoing changes along the revitalized river with succeeding urban planning strategies after the Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project. The city of Seoul will continue to evolve under the consistent efforts of the Seoul Metropolitan Government in introducing historic, cultural and greening elements into the future city plan.
1. Hwang, K. Y. 2007. Restoring Cheonggyecheon Stream in the Downtown Seoul. Accessed on 19 December 2015 from http://www.globalrestorationnetwork.org/uploads/files/LiteratureAttachments/270_restoring-cheonggyecheon-stream-in-the-downtown-seoul.pdf
2. Rowe, Peter G. 2011. Emergent architectural territories in East Asian cities. Basel: Birkhäuser.
Map reference: Google Earth