▲ Logo of the Seoullo 7017 Project. Provided by seoullo7017.seoul.go.kr.
The 1960s was a time when Korea’s rapid and astonishing economic growth started. The overpasses crossing the eastern and western part of Seoul Station were designed to deal with the sharp increase in population and traffic congestion of the time. These roads became a symbolic structure of Seoul; it was one of the most impressing features of the city to its visitors. However, as time passed, this aging road has turned from a solution to an eyesore, spoiling the view as well as a scourge causing city problems. Something had to be done—and now these overpasses have been transformed into a green resting place for citizens of Seoul named Seoullo, which opened on May 20.
Seoullo 7017 is a project to change the aging overpasses of Seoul Station from a road for cars into Saram-gil, a path for people. 17 is a special number for this project as the paths are 17 meters in height and the overpasses have changed into 17 saram-gils. With 864 circular flower pots, 20 convenient facilities, and 16 squares, Seoullo is a resting place with various interesting aspects for citizens.
With the creation of a pedestrian passage and forest-like elevated roads as a starting point, the 17 saram-gils are systematically interconnected with each other to provide a greener space in the city. The area will be made into a square and a park at the same time that invites people into nature.
Seoullo project are as follows: improvement of the pedestrian environment through regeneration of the overpasses of the Seoul Station, revitalization of the Namdaemun Market, urban regeneration, and complementing and resolving issues concerning communication, traffic, and safety. For example, to vitalize the culture tour industry of Seoul, Seoullo connects Myeong-dong, Namdaemun, the Hanyang Wall, and Namsan Mountain altogether.
hub, each area will be developed into spaces of their respective goals. Gongdeok-dong will grow to be the center of fashion, Seogye-dong of culture, Jungnim-dong of history, Hoehyeon-dong of tourism, and the Namdaemun Market into a global market. Through the implementation of the development plans in context for each district, the Seoul Station area is expected to become energetic.
The Green Change
The dangerous roads were the primary reason for the initiation of the Seoullo project. The overpasses of Seoul Station have received a safety level of D in 2006, which is classified as a disaster risk facility, and from 2009, the passage for heavy vehicles including buses has been restricted. Furthermore, the local economy of the project area was falling behind due to inconvenient transportation and cultural rupture. This is why Seoullo 7017 was first called “Seoul Station 7017.”
Seoullo plans to gradually expand the municipal green area, which is expected to draw in not only tourists but also local citizens. The natural environment in the city center can also be used to help reduce urban problems like the thermal island effect and at the same time improve the air quality near Seoul Station, where traffic is concentrated.
By connecting the overpasses with walking roads, the invigoration of existing markets is likely to be s e e n . While the eastern part of Seoul Station is economically well d e v e l o p e d , t h e western part of Seoul Station lags in development. When the improvement of the pedestrian environment is complete, it is projected that a portion of the 400,000 floating members of the population will flow into the aboveground road park, and the vitalization of the market in the western part of the Seoul Station is expected to take place.
▲ Seoullo 7017. Provided by seoullo7017.seoul.go.kr.
Skeptical Views Towards the Seoullo 7017 Project
However, there are still doubts towards the project. Many are concerned about traffic issues due to the decreasing number of overpasses. Currently, according to Seoul City, 40,000 to 50,000 cars utilize the Seoul Station overpasses every day. Due to the shutdown of the overpasses, the transit time during rush hour is expected to increase by 7.5 minutes from the Gongdeok-dong community center to the Namdaemdun market and by 6.6 minutes in the other direction.
In response, Seoul city provided three alternatives, which are creating a new side lane on the road from the Seoul Station intersection to Toegyero, constructing a new route in the direction of Sookmyung Women’s University Station, and expanding the usage of public transportation. Yet, with these three alternatives, there are still critical views claiming that it is virtually impossible for the new Seoullo to accommodate up to 50,000 vehicles a day.
Furthermore, since Seoullo is a very costly project, questions about the efficiency of the endeavor is inevitable. According to Seoul City, 597 billion won was put in as the construction expense in the process of the execution of the project. Whether the long-term benefits Seoullo will induce will be significant enough, considering the enormous amount of money spent in the project, remains to be seen.
Where Seoullo Should Head Toward
A good role-model of the Seoullo project is the restoration of the Cheong g yeocheon Stream. The Cheong g yeocheon Stream was r esto r ed by tea r in g down the overpasses which have turned into a monstrosity, through overcoming all kinds opposition at the time. During the process, the government utilized measures to finance Cheonggyeomerchants and planned events to promote active participation of Seoul citizens, such as the Cheonggeocheon Walking Festival.
Now, the Cheonggyeocheon Stream stands as a landmark of Seoul. For Seoullo to become a tonic of the center of the city, solving the backlash from nearby business districts through consultation as well as continuous interest and participation of citizens, is essential.
The Seoul Station overpasses were the hub of Seoul. Since Seoullo is a project to make this space into a park for everyone to enjoy, the rise of a discussion for its future is inevitable. There surely are many hurdles to be surmounted, however, when these matters are solved in a way that takes into account the many voices of citizens, there is much to expect from this innovative project.
▲ View of Seoullo at night. Provided by JoongAng Daily.