Seoul Campus

3. Cheonggyecheon (stream) Restoration

Date 2017-09-25 Writer ssunha
  • Urban Planning
  • Prof. Name Myunggu Kang
  • 2017-09-25
<Cheonggyecheon Restoration Module 3>
Planning. We need a plan for the restoration. Let me just review the situation before the restoration. Cheonggyecheon area is a densely populated area and is also a dense business area. The area nearby is deteriorated with low-income slums. Although it is called a stream, it is pretty much dry because the natural water circulation has been blocked due to urban development. Another important thing is that there were various interest groups with their own goals and needs to meet.

This is the physical situation before restoration. Underneath, you can see the blue area, which is the water, but as you can expect it is waste water. And you can see the road area that covers the stream and the elevated highway. Even in physical terms, this area is not easy to restore into its natural state.

Bringing new life to Cheonggyecheon started many discussions. Especially in early 2002, there was a paradigm shift from rebuilding to restoration. As I've mentioned, the Seoul government had a plan to rebuild the elevated highway and they set a budget too. But the idea for restoration came in as a new paradigm for urban regeneration. The goal is agreed later on but many concerns were raised. For example, the second concern was the issue of cost. The cost could range from small to large depending on how the restoration was planned, and project finance became a central issue.
But later on, the traffic flow and congestion also surfaced as an issue along with issues regarding the environment, regeneration, cultural and historical assets. In this diagram, I summarized those kind of interests. It began with historical preservation of the downtown area where the area was to be recovered to be more ecological.
But the point moves to how to finance this project. What will be the cost and who will pay for it? Then the point of discussion moved again to redevelopment and not just the restoration. They wanted to rebuild this area as a newly developed economic engine. These were the main points in the discussion and it was very difficult to prioritize the agenda.
This process is very important because there were diverse interest groups and one group and one group focused.  This is the diagram to summarize the discussions. The restoration discussion began with the historic preservation because the Cheonggyecheon stream is in the downtown area
so there are lots of historical assets there and the Seoul government wanted to revive such assets. The next point in discussion was the issue of cost. How much should be paid and who should pay for it? The cost was a big concern and it lead to another discussion about the redevelopment. Instead of just restoring its natural state, some interest groups wanted develop the Cheonggyecheon area with high rise buildings. Mainly there were three interest groups.
The one of them wanted to restore the stream back to its historical shape. Another interest group in the extreme opposite wanted recreation. They wanted to build new structures and create new industry in the area. There was also the third interest group that focused on restriction.
They were focused on issues surrounding flood control, finance and technology. These discussions went back and forth and strong leadership was required in the planning process. A leader was needed to bring the various interest groups to an agreement. We also needed to build a governance system. In this case, the Seoul government built a triangular implementation system.
There are three major components of governance system. One is from the government. The public offices whose job is dealing with the technical issues of planning. Another group is the experts group. They did researches and take care of the scientific and technological aspects of the project.

And most importantly, there is the citizen's committee that coordinates these activities. This is the participatory part of the restoration process. So there are three parts: The government, the experts and the citizens. The collaboration between the three groups is very important for this kind of restoration project.
We will now examine the opposition against the restoration process. This is the picture showing the merchants of the Cheonggyecheon area demonstrating against the restoration. They were concerned that the restoration will have negative influence on their business. They were also concerned about the reduction in the transportation flow from the removal of roads. So a governance system with a strong leadership is needed to make an agreement among such parties. This is an example, a case of Gwangtonggyo.
Gwangtonggyo was the biggest bridge over Cheonggyecheon stream and the biggest and the widest bridge in the downtown area. The historic preservation group wanted to restore the bridge in its original location. The picture on the left shows Gwangtonggyo's original location underneath the intersection.

Although it used to be the biggest bridge in the Joseon Dynasty, in today's standards it is a very small bridge difficult to support today's traffic flow. But the historic preservation groups wanted to restore Gwangtonggyo in its original location. But there were some pros and cons. If we were to restore the Gwangtonggyo in its original location, there would be problems of transport flow and in terms of historic preservation if Gwangtonggyo is exposed to sunlight and to the vibrations from cars in transport, it could be harmed.
So the alternative suggestion was to move its location to the middle of the intersections as in the picture on the right. Some revisions were made in the process and the bridge was made to be used by pedestrians only. One of the pros was that by doing this we could preserve Gwangtonggyo better. And if we have better technology later on, we can restore the bridge back to its original location, but until then we need to preserve it this way.
One of the biggest concerns is the flood issue. Flood has been the biggest challenge in this area, especially in the context of Korea. The graph on the left shows the rainfall by month. Because Korea has a rainy season which happens between June and September, most the rainfall is in these couple of months.
So the Cheonggyecheon and its neighboring area are always prone to problems of flooding and the picture on the right shows that the heavy rainfall is increasing nowadays partly because of the change in climate. So the flood issue is the biggest concern. Priority of the restoration. As you can see there is flood control, ecological, historical and cultural issues, but we have to prioritize which one should be concerned the most.

In this case, flood control became the top priority. Otherwise the preservation of the area cannot happen. The ecological space is the next priority, while historical and cultural spaces come afterwards in order. The cost and time also became a big challenge. Most of the neighboring merchants and residents wanted this project finished in a short time because they didn't want their lives and business to be interrupted.
This is the comparison between the Cheonggyecheon, High Line, New York and Boston restorations. From the figures you can see that Cheonggyecheon restoration was outstandingly cheaper than other similar projects.

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