SEOUL/ Walkability as New Modernity: Treatment of Infrastructure as Historical Artifacts
According to the joint report  – Turning and Overpass into a Forest: Seoullo 7017, done by The Seoul Institute and Centre for Liveable City Singapore in 2018, the Seoul Station Overpass and other overpasses are “regarded in the 1990s as an ugly monster that ruined the urban landscape”. There were also “safety concerns [with the] increase in traffic caused the structure to deteriorate”. Therefore, the current Mayor of Seoul, Park Won-soon, promised in the 2014 re-election campaign that he would create “a highline park in Seoul Station”. This decision shows the government’s favour towards pedestrian-use over automobile-use.
Different from the Cheonggyecheon Project done by former Mayor Lee Myung-bak, where the old infrastructure was torn down; we argue that Mayor Park regarded the aged Overpass as an historical artifact and used “surgical way” repair it. This shall be explained in terms of what has been done to the “artifact” and how is the project described.
First of all, similar to a historical artifact, the Seoul Station Overpass is regenerated by conservation. Though the original structure has been diagnosed as Grade D, which refers to as “insufficient” under the “Special Act on the Safety and Maintenance of Facilities” , the government has chosen not to tear it down, but only repair and act on the existing structure. Image 1  below is a catalogue of facilities that have been added to the highway, they are all drawn as individual plug-ins that could fit onto the highway flexibly, and are all small-scale when compared to the Overpass. Image 2  that follows provide an overview of how these facilities, escalators, lifts and stairs are all added to the overpass without changing much of its primary form. This way of encouraging walkability without destroying the existing infrastructure promotes the government’s attitude towards respecting history, preserving historical artifacts and learning from failure instead of rejecting it.
Last but not least, various studies have described the project from a historical preservation perspective. In the joint study mentioned above, the preservation of the overpass is written as preserving “a historical and cultural asset”  ; likewise in a study carried out by Southeast University, the project is said to be a “preservation plan [that] has left traces of history”  . It is reasonable to conclude that on one hand, walkability is promoted; on the other, a nation that respect history is also presented.
- Hong, Yan. “Actual Condition of Seoullo 7017 Overpass Regeneration Project Based on Field Surveys.” Frontiers of Architectural Research, vol. 7, no. 3, 2018, pp. 415–423.
- NA. “Report: Turning an Overpass into a Forest: Seoullo 7017.” The Seoul Institute and Centre for Liveable Cities Singapore, 2018, www.clc.gov.sg/docs/default-source/reports/bc-2018-06-turning-an-overpass-into-a-forest-seoullo-7017.pdf.
- NA. “Seoullo 7017 Skygarden.” MVRDV Project, www.mvrdv.nl/projects/seoul-skygarden.