Planting Design 2013 Working Group 6 - Case Study A

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Cheonggyecheon: Image of Nature in the Metropolis

Name Cheonggyecheon
Location Seoul
Country Korea, Republic of
Authors add author
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Rationale: Why is this case interesting?

There was historical restoration of a small stream, Cheonggyecheon, in the center of Seoul in 2003. Right now, Cheonggyecheon is very famous landmark in Seoul and citizens and tourists love this place. However it looks more like “Disneyland-fication” than natural stream restoration. Environmental activist criticize the output of restoration because it is far from natural stream and costs a lot for maintenance. Cheonggyecheon is still controversial issue. The appearance of restored Cheonggyecheon is ideal but not practical. I have never been living out of City, and actually I have spent the most of my life time in Seoul, huge metropolis. As a result, I am not sure how to implant Image of Nature in the City Area, where a prototype of nature can merely survive. Studying the restoration project of Cheonggyecheon, I want to look for the answer of it.

Author's perspective

From which professional background/perspective are your documenting this case?

Landscape and/or urban context of your case

  • Biogeography, cultural features, overall character, history and dynamics

Cheonggyecheon is natural ephemeral stream across the city of Seoul, which has been the capital of Korea since 1392, and functions as discharger of heavy rainfall in summer monsoon. It has been dredged for the sake of preventing flood for more than 600 years and its name, Cheonggyecheon, is also originated from the meaning of “dredge a stream”. In 1770s, the stream was straightened in the process of dredging. After Korean War, the poor people settled nearby the stream and it had been slummed through the age of industrial revolution. The stream was extremely polluted by chemicals and sewage. The stream had been covered up since 1930s and the overpass was constructed over the stream in 1970. In 2000s, according to deterioration and safety problem of the overpass, the government of Seoul city decided to restoration of Cheonggyecheon and the construction was fulfilled in 2005 followed by 26 months of rushing construction. 270Million Euro had been spent to restore 5.8km long stream. The running waters are leaded from groundwater fountain in subway and the Intake station in Han River because there is naturally no running water on the stream except monsoon season.

The restoration of Cheonggyecheon was planned to connect biotopes in Seoul. The CBD, Cheonggyecheon cuts through, is surrounded by Mountains and palaces functioning core patch of ecosystem and the end of Cheonggyecheon flows into Han River. The restored stream is vertically consisted of wetland, flood plain, revetment, and the terrace land and the large range of plant from submerged plants to roadside trees was planted on each site. 288 species of animals and 366 species of plants inhabit along the stream.(2012, 7th Han River Ecology Report). The upper region has a simplified water bed and the velocity of fluid is quite high. The plants bed is well manicured but the lack of diversity is remarkable. The feature of inhabitants becomes more natural toward the mouth of the stream and at the mouth of the stream is only area where amphibian and reptile live.

The starting point of Cheonggyecheon is sited on historical center of the Seoul, inside of the old castle. The upper stream is mixed zone with the historical palaces and high-rise buildings so it is conceptualized as historical and tradition section. The stream flows into the Han River and the mouth of the stream has abundant natural resources, and this area is planned as natural and future section. The middle of the stream lies on very hot market place and became a cultural and modern section. The direction of restoration does not completely correspond to ecological restoration but Cheonggyecheon gains great popularity as urban park. Especially the upper areas are used for festival, exhibition, and routine trail for citizens.

Analytical drawings

Please add four analytical sketches/drawings (or montages/schemes) of your case and take the following aspects into account:

  • natural dynamic versus cultural framework - in how far do these two forces come together in your case?
  • dynamic through the year (you may imagine how the site looks in spring and summer, maybe you also remember it)
  • highlight potentials and problems

Projective drawings

  • Please add four projective sketches/drawings (or montages/schemes) for your case and take the following aspects into account:
    • How would you like this case to change in the near future? (in 1-2 years)
    • And how could it look like in 10-15 years?

Summary and conclusion

Please summarize your case and give arguments for your projective design (approx 150 words).

Image Gallery

You may add a series of images/photos in addition to the sketches/drawings


* Seoul Metropolitan Government(2006), The Restoration of Cheonggyecheon White Paper

* Seoul Metropolitan Government(2012), The Han-River Ecology Report

* Please add internet links to other resources if necessary.

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