History, Narrative, and Production in the Cheonggyecheon Reconstruction
Kim, Eyun Jennifer
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As cities become increasingly de-industrialized and place greater emphasis on building a sustainable future, we have seen an increase in the design of large-scale landscapes that are being incorporated into the urban fabric. Unlike historical models of urban renewal which prioritized building and infrastructure as the drivers for change in the pursuit of creating a modern, industrial city, the prominence of landscape as the renewing and transformative medium illustrates the civic desire for the creation of a more humanistic urban condition. The Cheonggyecheon stream and park in Seoul, South Korea, is an example of this phenomenon, and the city of Seoul has promoted the project as a restoration of its history. Through an examination of visual and oral narratives of the Cheonggyecheon project, site, and design, this dissertation posits that Seoul’s construction of a stream and park is simultaneously a recovery of and break with the past, reflecting the tenacity of historical discourse in evoking collective memory and the lingering effects of history of place in determining place identity. Built on the site of a historic stream that had been buried since the 1970s, the project began with the demolition of a highway overpass and transformed the site into a urban stream park, sharing similar design and operational characteristics of a landscape urbanism project. Yet the Cheonggyecheon carries unique cultural, political, and historical dimensions that makes the project more than a large-scale urban landscape and the central feature of a new urban design for Seoul’s city center. Using the ideas of history, memory, and nature in the construction of a new place identity for the park, the Cheonggyecheon reflects Seoul’s efforts to redefine itself for the 21st century. The park has provided the city center with a green space, helped the city become more pedestrian-friendly and gain an image of environmental progressiveness, and contributed to the revitalization and rewriting of the city’s history and identity. However, despite these transformative attributes, the project sparked controversy and criticism for its speed of construction, negative impacts to existing businesses and residents of the surrounding neighborhood, and the use of pumped water from the Han River to supplement the stream’s continuous flow of water. The project reflects the challenges and contradictions for remaking urban and industrial sites into urban landscapes and the use of technology to produce and control natural forces and processes. The Cheonggyecheon ultimately reflects the desire and pursuit of the 21st century city to express new directions for its future through a construction of a new historical narrative of its past and culture.
- Built environment