ChonGae Canal Restoration Project

Mikyoung Kim Design: The ChonGae Canal Restoration Project is an ambitious redevelopment initiative that transformed the urban fabric of Seoul, Korea. This design was the winning project in an international competition and celebrates the source point of cleansed surficial and sub grade runoff from the city at the start of this seven mile green corridor. The main competition requirement was to highlight the future reunification of North and South Korea. The project symbolizes this political effort through the use of donated local stone from each of the eight provinces of North and South Korea. The individual stones act to frame the urban plaza and the eight source points where runoff is daylighted and represents the unified effort in the transformation of this urban center.

The ChonGae River Restoration Project is located at the important source point of this seven-mile green corridor that begins in the central business and commercial district of the city. The goal was to restore this highly polluted and covered water-way with the demolition of nearly four miles of at grade and elevated highway infrastructure that divided the city. The outcome is the creation of a pedestrian focused zone from this former vehicular access way that brings people to the historic ChonGae River while mitigating flooding and improving water quality. The charge of this international design competition was to create a symbolic representation of the future reunification of North and South Korea within a highly active public plaza. This winning proposal defined the eight provinces through the use of local materials and eight sources of water. Regional stone quarried from each of the eight areas, eight source points of water and fiber-optic light highlight this collaborative effort of reunification and restoration.

The design was guided by the water levels from hour to hour and season to season, while addressing the catastrophic flooding that occurs during intense storms in the Monsoon season. The unique sloped and stepped stone elements allow for a reading of the various levels of water while encouraging direct public engagement with the river. The restoration of this area is the first step in a major redevelopment effort of this seven-mile river and current ambitious architectural redevelopment projects that frame this natural drainage basin to the city. Since the ribbon cutting ceremony in October 2005 on the main plaza, nearly 10 million visitors and residents have visited the river.

In addition to the environmental restoration effort, this urban open space has become a central gathering place for the city which is in dire need of more public landscapes. The Class II water quality level has allowed for families to come and reengage with this historical river. During specialized events such as the traditional New Year’s festivals, political rallies, fashion shows and rock concerts both the plaza and the Water Source area get redefined in inventive ways. Recently, coins that were tossed in the canal by visitors were collected from the basin and thousands of dollars were donated to local charities.

Project Title: ChonGae Canal Restoration Project
Landscape Architecture: Mikyoung Kim Design
Project Location: Central Seoul, Korea
Project Type: Urban Park
Date of Completion: October 2007
Owner/Client: Seoul Metropolitan Government
Photographer: Taeoh Kim
Drawings/Renderings: Mikyoung Kim Design
Materials: Granite, Water, Fiber Optic Lighting
Year: 2005
Commissioning Entity: Seoul Metropolitan Government
Budget: $24 m.
Dimensions: 91,000 sq. m [22.5 acres]
Public Art: $24 m.
Budget: $1.2 m