West 8 + IROJE wins Yongsan Park competition in Seoul

© West 8 urban design & landscape architecture

Rotterdam-based practice WEST 8, together with the local architects of IROJE, have been announced winner of the International Competition for Master Plan of Yongsan Park, Korea. The Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs of the Republic of organized the competition with the intention to create a “national park in which nature, culture, history and the future come in harmony.” Located in a large area in the center of , the circa 243 ha site has been in use as a military base for an extensive period both during the Japanese occupation and under post-war American protection.

Continue reading for more information on the Yongsan Park competition.

View over urban agriculture ©West 8 urban design & landscape architecture

As described in the brief, the competition aims to transform the military base into a park which restores, sublimates and expands upon the history and local characteristics of the area. Based on the fundamental concept of healing, the park strives to regain the respect for nature and reclaim the lost and damaged ecological system. Executing West 8’s master plan will eventually transform this site into a park of new urban culture for the preservation of green spaces and a sustainable future.

Heritage View ©West 8 urban design & landscape architecture

This overarching concept of healing is developed on these three fundamental levels in the transformation of the site: Healing Nature: “Sam Cheon Li Geum Su Gang San”, Healing History: Confrontation and Exposure, and Healing Culture: “Park-Metropolis Interface”.

Healing Nature: “Sam Cheon Li Geum Su Gang San”:
In Korean culture, the Korean peninsula is described with the phrase “Sam Cheon Li Geum Su Gang San”; which means ‘1,200 km of mountain and river linked all together is embroidered in gold’. This has been the way Korean people see, meet, and interact with beautiful mountains and rivers. It is part of the collective perception towards the physical world. It describes the Korean mental DNA. As such, we not only recover the forgotten landscape in the military base but also recover the illusion of Korean landscape mentally, visually and ecologically.

This central part of the site will be excavated for a lake. The spoils will be used to create a more dramatic topography, to build an illusion of naturalistic Korean landscape.

From this typography a new restructured water system with streams, ponds, marchland and lotus basins will be introduced. Natural woodland and undulating meadows will be organized around the lake.

Site Plan ©West 8 urban design & landscape architecture

Healing History: Confrontation and Exposure:

The location of Yongsan Park symbolizes an extremely turbulent history of war and occupation. However sad and sorrowful this history may be, it is still part of Korea’s history. The approach for the park design on the site is to uncover the traces and layers of the history by reusing many of the existing buildings and roadways. The architectural approach is respectful towards the military buildings on the site and ranges from 100% restoration (such as the Japanese Garrison) to the construction of new buildings on the footprint of demolished ones. Also, new additions are added to existing buildings to make them fit for their new use.

Where buildings disappear, their footprint re-emerges as a trace of history. These places, we named ‘Madang’. The Madang is the ancient Korean word describing an open plaza that can hold various programs. The Madangs are simple granite stone platforms in the undulating park landscape. They are considered new, informal meeting point for social activity.

Mandang Meadow ©West 8 urban design & landscape architecture

Healing Culture: “Park-Metropolis Interface”:

For over 100 years the Yongsan site has been cut off from the city by a secured wall. The departure of the US army gives the city a unique opportunity to reclaim the excavation and to colonize it. The new Yongsan Park will transform the adjacent urban fabric and works as a magnetic field for urban growth. The interface between the park and the city is diverse and versatile. Within and around the park at least 10 different types of relationships are identified: walled gardens, river links, night life districts, new residential neighborhood etc.

Heavy traffic corridors appear to obstruct the connection to the city. Therefore a dozen of pedestrian bridges will create iconic gateways to the park. These ritualize the entering to the park. North-South a robust green-blue ecological Spine will restore the connection between Nam San and the River Han. Programmatic diversity, food, bicycle culture and social media are prominent in the master plan strategy.

For the realization of the park public participation and soil remediation is the key. This will be an open process of healing, seeding and growing.

Main Gate Bridge at Hangang-Ro ©West 8 urban design & landscape architecture

Christophe Girot, the selection jury chairman, stated that the jury believes “this project can evolve and adapt in response to the expertise of the local community and deeper cultural values.”

Landscape architect WEST 8, along with IROJE architects & partners, Professor Kim, Nam-choon, botanist and professor of Dankook University, Professor Kim, Bong-ryol, Professor of Korean Architectural History at National University of Arts, and DONG IL Engineering Consultants Co., Ltd. will now be given the change to lead the design development of the master plan for the creation and structuring of the park.

Construction is scheduled to start in 2017, after the evacuation of the American military base that currently inhabits the site.

An award ceremony will take place at the National Museum of Korea on the 25th of May, 2012.

Eco Spine Park Observatory ©West 8 urban design & landscape architecture

Architects: West 8 + IROJE
Location: Seoul, Korea
Design: 2012
Realisation: from 2017
Size: 243 ha
Budget: $770 mio USD in conversion rate dated 24 April 2012
Client: Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs of the Republic of Korea

Cite: Rosenfield, Karissa. "West 8 + IROJE wins Yongsan Park competition in Seoul" 25 Apr 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 Dec 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=229398>
  • ER

    I wonder why IROJE is always copying Japanese style.

    • Johno

      This is Chinese Gardening, dude.

  • Jason

    Not bad, it’s neither Japanese style nor Chinese garden. It’s just too sensitive and bound by tradition. I just wonder that I can’t recognize any trace of West8.

  • KH

    Chinese Japanese Korean architecture only ‘look’ similar they come from very different concepts. Saying that they are the same is one fool way to say something about east asian architecture.. learn the difference before saying anything.

  • dk

    this is actually quite disappointing…