the greening of seoul

The Guardian Weekly reports on the Seoul's demolition of a major highway and the restoration of a river and a park in its place:

"The demolition of a vast motorway through the centre of South Korea's capital and the restoration of a river and park in its place proves that mega-cities can be changed for the better. One year ago this month, several million people headed to a park in the centre of Seoul, the capital of South Korea and seventh-largest city in the world. They didn't go for a rock festival, a football match or a political gathering, but mostly to just marvel at the surroundings, to get some fresh air and to paddle in the river."

...in a revolutionary act of ecological restoration that is now being examined around the world, the city of Seoul, under the leadership of the then mayor, Lee Myung Bak, pledged in 2002 to restore the river, tear down the motorway and create a 8km-long, 800-metre wide, 400ha lateral park snaking through the city where the river once ran."
Here's the clincher: tearing down the motorway did NOT result in the traffic nightmare the naysayers were predicting:
"We discovered it was a case of 'Braess paradox', which says that by taking away space in an urban area you can actually increase the flow of traffic, and, by implication, by adding extra capacity to a road network you can reduce overall performance." (emphasis mine -urbano)

[Kee Yeon Hwang, a professor in the department of urban planning and design at Hongik University -and the principal author of the masterplan] said: "The tearing down of the motorway has had both intended and unexpected effects. As soon as we destroyed the road, the cars just disappeared. A lot of people just gave up their cars. Others found a different way of driving."
Which should be something Metro Manila's traffic planners should think about everytime they decide that the best way to solve the traffic mess is to widen the roads and build more flyovers. (Read more about Braes and the Road Network Paradox.)

The other gem was the impact on the environment -apart from just the river restoration:
"We found that surface temperatures in summer along the restored river were an average 3.6C lower than 400 metres away. The river is now a natural air-conditioner, cooling the capital during its long hot summers. Average wind speeds in June this year were 50% higher than the same period last year.”
Says Treehugger:
"Citizens flock to the water's edge--there are waterfalls, play spaces, running tracks and sitting areas. Birds, fish, plants and a variety of wildlife have also returned and increased. Shanghai and Los Angeles are looking at the results because Cheonggyecheon Park has become a model for other large cities seeking to link regeneration and environmental progress."

It also should inspire us to consider daylighting some of the esteros that we have paved over, and seriously pursuing the restoration of the Pasig. It should, like Cheonggyecheon Park, serve as the major public amenity for our metropolis.

Here's the link to the full article and the post on Treehugger.


Zachary said...

not really like koreans. but indeed they have done well in learning from the civilized world

peterangliongto said...

I saw this on National Geographic, I so do look forward to the day when local municipalities are able to enact such projects. It's a nice piece of redevelopment.

Urbano dela Cruz said...

ah, but it requires three things:

1) a paradigm shift in what we value in our cities: cars or people.

2) the involvement of central government, and, most importantly

3) a group of people who care enough to bang the gong and call attention to urban issues.

Bradpetehoops said...
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