Dutch studio MVRDV (a combination of the founders initials) has been chosen to transform an abandoned section of highway in South Korea into an elevated public park. Give the name ‘Seoul Skygarden’, the design populates the overpass with 254 different species of trees, shrubs and flowers to create an urban arboretum that can be enjoyed by the entire city.
The plants are ordered according to the Korean alphabet, this is also to represent the natural diversity of the city, allowing citizens to interact with, and discover new species. The new overpass also serves to reduce the 25 minute walk around the neighbouring railway station to just 11 minutes, while it is forecast to generate over 1.5 times the cost of its renovation and maintenance in economic benefits.
The existing structure was built in the 1970s to provide a connection to and from the local Namdaemun market, one of the region’s largest traditional points of trade, for cars, vans and HGVs. Following intensive safety inspection in 2006, the city of Seoul deemed the the 17-meter high structure unsafe and intended to demolish it. After consultation with residents and experts lead to the regeneration the overpass – which totals 9,661 square meters in area – into a pedestrian walkway and public space, with a design competition launched in 2015.
MVRDV won the contest, with their submission intending to make he space as green as possible while introducing new leisure functions that require a modular and adaptable approach. In addition circular pot plants of various sizes, a series of customisable activators such as tea cafes, flower shops, street markets, libraries and greenhouses will provide a catalogue of elements designed to enliven the skygarden.
‘The seoul skywalk will change the daily lives of many people in seoul for the better, they will have a pleasant shortcut through a green oasis in the midst of all the traffic and concrete. It is a walk through a park, a living dictionary of the natural heritage of Korea, connecting the city dwellers with nature.’ Winy Maas, Principal Architect and co-founder of MVRDV.