SEOUL/ Walkability as New Modernity: Comparison with Hong Kong’s Elevated Walkway System

The concern on “walkability” and “pedestrian priority” begins to emerge from civil movements in 1993. Since then the Seoul Metropolitan Government has made continuous effort to improve pedestrian experience. In the chosen time frame of our study – Mayor Park Won-soon’s term of office, Seoul government has visioned on a 10-project scheme that is based on the creation of a pedestrian-friendly city. The scheme includes scope of works such as turning streets to car-free ones, creating pedestrian friendly area, such as the transit mall, and adding escalators and elevators to subway station [1]. Though the initial point of “walkability” stems from the people, it has however turned towards the government working on fragmented projects to enhance individual bits of the street.

On the other hand, the elevated walkway system in Hong Kong also started with private stakeholders, then gone through a long period of time to be recognised by the government, but it has always consider the “push and pull” factors of the private and the public. The initial idea of the elevated walkway was to connect hotel and shopping malls, so that it gives convenience to the customers [2]. After being recognized by the government as a urban design strategy, it gradually formed a network of public space owned by private sector and the government, that includes the benefit of retail shops along the routes [2].

The Korea Transport Institute in 2015 has suggested the “promotion of more active public participation in its pedestrian project and the creation of a governance system” [1], which I agree as an crucial next step for the Seoul government. Apart from promoting public participation, it is more important to create a governance system, like one in Hong Kong. Because in the course of making decision for a governance system, there would definitely involve debate of the public, private and the government, hence a more well-rounded solution or adaptation of the concept of “walkability” could be set for Seoul.

References:

  1. Lim, Sam-jin, editor. “Issue 18: The Improvement of the Pedestrian Environment in Korea: Policies and Achievements.” KOTI Knowledge Sharing Report, The Korea Transport Institute, 2015.
  2. 木下, 光 et al. “香港セントラル地区を中心に広がるペデストリアンデッキネットワークの形成プロセスに関する研究” Journal of Architecture and Planning (Transactions of AIJ), vol. 79, no. 705, 2014, pp. 2479–2486.

4 Comments on “SEOUL/ Walkability as New Modernity: Comparison with Hong Kong’s Elevated Walkway System

  1. I really like the idea of “walkability” as it encourages people to explore the city by walking the streets and in between buildings, to appreciate the city they are living in. It is interesting to observe that a lot of push factors comes from private or individual interest which gradually attracts public usage, ultimately transitioning to a public facility. Take the elevated walkway in Hong Kong as the example, despite the fact that the infrastructure is more or less the same in hardware, the concept of public space adds complexity to the architecture as it represents the maturing of the city itself.

  2. It is great to compare the two asian cities in terms of emerging force of elevated walkway system and it is well-pointed that in Korea the pedestrian projects are scattered around the city.
    It might be more interesting if the narrative also consider the two different urban conditions of the cities. Hong Kong has a lot of high-rise buildings that are closed to each other and thus might be easier to connect the walkway to a connected system, while in Seoul urban conditions of different districts are all under distinct conditions and thus might be hard to build up a connected walkway system.

    • The difference in the city’s context certainly exhibit in the difference in the form of connected walkway system. Of course a similar governance system of as mentioned in the article may help the development of walkway system in Seoul. Yet, another factor which actually largely influence the development of walkway system is its function, which also depends on its location. Given HK’s limited land and already developed CBD zones, the direction for development of elevated walkway system there is certainly about maximizing the efficiency of circulation in between buildings and mass transportation. Even there’s the consideration of walkway system as urban design, not much can be done becaus the potential for development is limited with already concentrated urban fabrics and land use distribution. Yet, in the case of Seoul, the density of both land use distribution and human circulation is much less extreme than Hong Kong. Maybe it they are between the business clusters, it is also about faciliating public circulation as the first priority. Yet, if they are treated as urban design, eg. green public place for urban retreat, tourist attraction, etc, located at a different context of a city, it is about introducing something new to different regions in Seoul, but not interfering the existing walkway system. Then, the development of walkway system will be different

  3. An interesting comparison by putting elevated walkways of Seoul and HongKong side by side. But it is also true that when we talk about elevated walkways in Hong Kong, we would immediately think of Central. But all the bridges in Central were designed by private sectors which is also a tool to link up all of their malls for the ease of customers to walk from one mall to another. However, it would be fairer to compare the actual bridges that developed by government, as the bridges in Seoul were done by their Seoul city government. The bridges in Hong Kong are mostly purely functional to flyover busy highways to connect the two sides of the pedestrian walking, but in Seoul the bridges are more articulated to include not only the basic functions of connecting two sides, but they are more like a new prototype of bridges to include cultural promotions and promotions of the city image.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.