In Seoul, an abandoned motorway has just been turned into a suspended botanical garden. This road that is now pedestrianised reconnects with the High Line principle. Like in New York, it aims to drive a change at neighbourhood level.
In the “Land of the Morning Calm”, almost everything seems to want to touch the sky. It isn’t rare to find segments of motorway built on several levels amidst giant glass buildings to alleviate the high traffic density.
One of them, near to Seoul station, had been disused for nearly ten years. But it has just undergone one of the capital’s most ingenious renovations. City Hall’s idea? To transform this 983 metre viaduct into an aerial pedestrian zone. With a suspended garden and direct access to neighbouring tea rooms, shops, art galleries and restaurants.
Ordered in 2015 from the Dutch agency MVRDV, the “Skygarden” was opened on 20 May 2017. And its itinerary is impressive. Nearly 254 plant species fill this botanical garden, which looks like a “dictionary of Korean flora”, organised according to the Korean alphabet. “With over 24,000 plants, it is a living library of the country’s natural heritage. An oasis of greenery perched high above the tarmac and, above all, integrated into a neighbourhood under comprehensive renewal”, explains the architect Winy Maas, heading the project.
A river in the night
Divided into several sections, the park has fifty or so different identities depending on its colours, fragrances, floral compositions. But the “Skygarden” also has a number of urban connections. Several stairs, lifts and ramps have been grafted onto the original structure. The result is improved comfort and safety for pedestrians and, much more fluid traffic on the ground.
Winy Maas continued “Skygarden was conceived as an evolutive, tailored structure which the district will change and other connections will be created to continue to extend it“. Distinguishing mark: oasis of greenery by day, the old motorway lights up in blue at night. Like an electric river running through Seoul’s modernist landscape. Open 24 hours, Skygarden is definitely a new kind of High Line, which has all the ingredients needed to be emulated in other cities.