Having faced challenges in Seoul’s redevelopment projects as a result of an increasingly vocal public with a greater interest in their city’s urban development, the city devised creative ways to meet the people’s needs while still achieving the city’s vision. One of these is the creative repurposing of dilapidated urban infrastructure, which the city termed as “development without demolition”. In this photo essay, we look at some of these innovative projects that conserve modern heritage, and preserve collective memories.
Seoullo 7017 – from major driveway to sky garden
Seoullo 7017 is a conversion of the Seoul Station Overpass into a 1 km elevated public pedestrian passage, with plants, commercial and performance spaces, and public facilities along the way.
The overpass was built in 1970 as a major driveway to connect western and central Seoul. After more than 40 years of heavy use, it was closed in 2015 due to safety concerns. While some had called for the overpass to be demolished, the city was inspired by New York’s High Line, and decided to convert it into a park instead.
Seoullo 7017 is a signifier of the city’s paradigm shift from car-oriented transportation to people-centric spaces. It is a well-used public space in central Seoul today.
The Seoul Station Overpass used to be a major driveway connecting the Seoul Station to other areas in Seoul © Seoul Metropolitan Government
Seoullo 7017 today © Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize
Seoullo 7017 is a lushly planted elevated walkway with pockets of activities along the way © Seoul Metropolitan Government
People enjoying a public performance at Seoullo 7017 © Seoul Metropolitan Government
A public foot bath along Seoullo 7017 © Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize
Makercity Sewoon – from ageing superblocks to synergy between old and new
The Makercity Sewoon project is a rehabilitation of seven commercial and residential superblocks in central Seoul built in the 1970s into a hub for technology, manufacturing and business start-ups.
The existing shop-owners are relocated within the same complex, while new uses are introduced, re-injecting vibrancy in the dilapidated area. Start-ups can now use business incubation spaces in the complex, called “Makers’ Cubes”, for their creative development activities, such as the design and fine-tuning of drones and smart medical devices.
Elevated bridges that had been torn down were rebuilt to reconnect the complex’s seven blocks, and new studios and retail units were added along pedestrian walkways.
Makercity Sewoon © Seoul Metropolitan Government
Rooftop activity space at Makercity Sewoon © Seoul Metropolitan Government
Insertion of a second story walkway © Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize
An elevated walkway that connects the superblocks © Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize
New studios and retail units added along pedestrian walkways © Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize
Young start-ups in a business incubation space © Seoul Metropolitan Government
Mapo Culture Depot – from disused oil tanks to an arts and culture hub
The Mapo Culture Depot is the repurposing of the disused oil tanks at the former oil depot at Maebong into a spacious park and cultural venue with galleries and performance spaces, a multipurpose pavilion, an outdoor amphitheatre, and a café.
The oil storage facility was abandoned since the early 2000s due to the construction of the Seoul World Cup Stadium nearby in preparation for the city’s co-hosting of the 2002 World Cup. By repurposing the abandoned facility and returning the space to the people, the city demonstrates creativity in conserving its industrial heritage and putting them to new uses.
An overview of the Mapo Culture Depot, with the Seoul World Cup Stadium in the background © Seoul Metropolitan Government
An outdoor amphitheatre, with the structure of the former oil tank standing in the background © Seoul Metropolitan Government
Performance and exhibition spaces housed within former oil tanks © Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize
A newly constructed building in the form of an oil tank housing exhibition spaces, and cladded in materials inspired by the oil tanks © Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize