Dutch architect to turn Seoul overpass into park

A renowned Dutch architect will be commissioned to turn an old, elevated road crossing in central Seoul into a park ― a project pushed by the city mayor despite resistance from local businesspeople.

Seoul Metropolitan Government said Wednesday a design proposal by Dutch architect Winy Mass was picked as the blueprint for the “Seoul Station 7017 Project.” The project is aimed at transforming the decades-old overpass near Seoul Station into a public park, similar to High Line Park in New York City, according to officials.

Under the theme of “Green City Project,” Mass proposed his “Seoul Arboretum” plan to change the overpass into a high-rise garden by designing the overpass like a giant tree with various plants. The main overpass will be connected with 17 adjacent roads by placing light bulbs on the roads to make them look like tree branches, the city said. 

Mass, a cofounder of urban design practice MVRDV in Netherlands, has pushed for a number of global projects including Grand Paris Plus Petit ― a plan that envisioned the future of the French capital. 

“The strategy (of Mass’s proposal) that changes the concrete construction to a place of life with a means of nature was future-oriented and innovative,” said Seung Hyo-sang, the capital government’s official city architect.

The panel of judges, comprising five local and international urban architects, assessed the proposals from seven invited designers based on four categories: interpretation of the place, harmony with neighboring areas, preservation of the original overpass and feasibility of the program, the city said. 

The kilometer-long section of the high-rise road is considered part of Seoul’s heritage from the industrialized era, as it has connected the city center to the western region since the 1970s. 

Scheduled to be completed by 2017, the project is expected to cost about 38 billion won ($35 million), the city said. The traffic may be restricted starting from October for construction, it added. 

The city has held a number of civic events and a public hearing to widen the social consensus over the project as it has faced objection from residents and business owners near Seoul Station, citing traffic congestion and business losses.

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