When the “Sky Garden”— a raised path for pedestrians in front of Seoul Station — is completed, Seoul will have one of the most unique and exotic pedestrian walkways in the world.
The old overpass, which has deteriorated after years of use by vehicles, had been slated for demolition until plans were made to transform the overpass into “Sky Path”, a new pedestrian walkway and tourist attraction.
The Sky Path will be designed using a tree theme. Trees will be planted along stretches of the path that run from Toegye-ro to Jungnim-dong, and ramps will be designed as tree branches connecting the 17 pedestrian walkways. The new pathway has already received high acclaim for modern and innovative design and vision of turning an unused concrete structure into a place of nature and life.
Developers hope that the “Sky Path”, which will offer a spectacular view of the Seoul Station area, will become a new tourist attraction once completed. To this end, seasonal plants will be planted along the overpass, and other facilities for pedestrians, such as cafés, will be opened as well.
Seoul Station is one of the main gateways to Seoul and is used as a point of transit by an average of 400,000 people a day. It will also be used as the starting and ending point for the Eurasian Railroad to be built in anticipation of re-unification. Despite the station’s importance as a main transportation hub, Seoul Station is largely cut off from other neighborhoods by a maze of streets, limiting the flow of tourists from Seoul Station to other areas.
As a result, areas around Seoul Station, including Gwanghwamun, Yongsan and Mapo, have seen less development than other areas in Seoul despite being located at the center of the city. Residents of the Seoul Station area have also suffered from the deterioration of the overpass and the lack of a solid infrastructure.
In 2012, a Precision Safety Diagnosis test found that the Seoul Station Overpass could only remain standing for about two or three years before it would have to be torn down for the safety of citizens.
Instead of merely tearing down the overpass, the “Seoul Station 7017 Project” was born to give new life to the Seoul Station Overpass. The project aims at transforming the overpass into a pedestrian park that will not only act as a symbol of urban renewal, but will also secure the walking rights of Seoul citizens. When the Seoul Station Overpass officially re-opens as a “path for people,” the isolated region will be connected through a series of 17 pedestrian roads, and become an even more central transportation hub. A number of top tourist attractions, including Namdaemun Gate, the Seoul Fortress, Myeong-dong, and Namdaemun Market will also be connected through the pathways to boost Seoul’s tourism industry.
The “Seoul Station 7017 Project” was born out of the idea that “Beauty cannot exist without history.” The project is the first real step the city has taken to begin the gradual development of the station area and the development of northwestern Seoul. The project shows government officials’ desire to preserve the history of Seoul rather than recklessly develop the area and is expected to result in tangible changes for local residents.
The name of the “Seoul Station 7017 Project” is significant in that the 17-meter-high overpass was created in 1970 as a road for vehicular transportation and will be reborn as a historical overpass in 2017 with 17 pedestrian paths.
After initially announcing the “Seoul Station 7017 Project”, the Seoul Metropolitan Government held an international design competition, inviting domestic and overseas participants well-known in the fields of construction, landscaping, and architecture. Seven Korean and foreign artists with experience in reviving modern industrial heritages were selected and invited to participate in the competition.
The judges, consisting of prominent architecture and landscape artists at home and abroad, selected “The Seoul Arboretum” under the theme of “Green City Project” designed by Winy Maas, an architecture and landscape expert from the Netherlands, as the winner.
Using Maas’s design as a springboard, the Seoul Metropolitan Government is now finalizing the basic layout of the area, including the positioning of specific facilities, landscaping, and connecting pathways. While the primary focus of the design is safety, it also seeks to incorporate an array of themes by season and embody Seoul’s history and culture as well.
Construction on the Seoul Station Overpass will begin in November 2015 and is expected to be completed in the first half of 2017, after which the Sky Path will be opened to the public.
Prior to construction, the Seoul Metropolitan Government held two events in October 2014 and May 2015 to promote the project to citizens. During the events, people had a chance to come and envision the changes taking place in the area and walk along the overpass for the first time since it was constructed in 1970. About 60,000 citizens participated in the events and enjoyed a view of Seoul that had been hidden behind the overpass for the last few decades.
In addition to serving as a green space and tourist attraction, the new Sky Path will serve an even more important purpose in reinforcing the societal value of renewal over demolition, at the same time preserving the memory of the old overpass and its importance to the citizens of Seoul.