The transformation of the historical ChonGae River from a polluted and covered canal into a 7-mile green corridor is one example of Seoul’s efforts to create more public landscapes for the bustling city of South Korea. As an international design competition, the main requirement was to show the future reunification of North and South Korea. The winner, Mikyoung Kim, represented this reunification by incorporating stone from each of the eight provinces of the Korean peninsula, and eight sources of water for the plaza at the beginning of the 7-mile green corridor.
Beginning in the central business and commercial district of Seoul, it is the source point of cleansed surface and subgrade runoff from the city. Almost four miles of at grade and elevated highway infrastructure, that divided the city, was removed to allow public access to the canal now with Class II water quality. Extensive research of hour-to-hour and season-to-season water levels was incorporated to the design. The sloped and stepped stones not only encourage public engagement with the historic river, but also act as a gauge for flood levels.
This urban plaza has become a central gathering space for city dwellers. In addition to casual daily use, it hosts the tradition New Year’s festival, rallies, fashion shows, and concerts. There’s a lot of meaning in this small urban space. It represents environmental restoration, a future reunification of two long separated countries and families, and the reunification of people and their city landscape.