South Korea’s first urban ecological park achieves high success with Seoahn Total Landscape’s sensitive and elegant design. The use of the former water treatment plant’s infrastructure as design inspiration and guide has resulted in an environment honest with its past and expressive of its aspirations for the future. It is one of the first projects in South Korea to use 20th century artifacts as heritage, in a contemporary urban environment.
The park works hard to make visitors aware of plant diversity and the site’s history. There is clear and relevant information on:
- the ‘smaller picture’ – species type and characteristics
- the ‘larger picture’ – the process of water purification and how industrial components have been reused and reintegrated.
Seonyudo is a popular option for school tours due to the variety of plant life and unique hothouse species. The shallow basins allow close observation of plant life. There is also an exhibition gallery dedicated to Seonyudo Island and the Hangang River.
Seonyudo’s enjoyable spaces are also educational ones – the Ecological Water Playground, for example. However, material chosen for paths such as irregular stone paving may make access to this educational resource difficult for children who use wheelchairs.
There are many inviting gathering spaces, such as the water playground, the pavilion and the observation deck. The park administration also organises seasonal cultural events for the public. Despite the emphasis on common spaces, areas for privacy and contemplation abound, recalling the lost world of Seonyubong Peak.
Within the park wayfinding and accessibility are generally good. Paths follow gentle slopes, allowing easy movement for people using wheelchairs or pushchairs. Alternative routes are provided for stairs, and all multi-level facilities have lifts.
However, some visually appealing features, such as streams that cross pathways, would not be easy to navigate for frail elderly people or those with visual impairments.
Seonyudo Island is difficult to get to. Its most convenient access point is the pedestrian bridge – the entrance from the motor bridge spanning the river means a walk along an eight-lane highway. The ferry, although convenient and true to schedule, could be an obstacle to spontaneous visits. The nearest subways are 15 minutes’ walk but signage is infrequent and easy to miss.
The lack of legibility and clear routes may make access to the park difficult for people with learning disabilities or visual impairments. Parking bays for disabled visitors are provided close to the park entrance. However, the lack of cheap and regular public transport may put off lower income groups without a car.
Better signage, public transport links and marketing would alert more residents and visitors to this gem in the city centre.
Seoul Metropolitan Government’s vast plan to develop riverside areas into a network of green spaces will increase Seonyudo’s popularity, and integrate it into a clear urban framework.
The city has invested in bike lanes and is an active promoter of cycling. However, bicycles are not allowed on Seonyudo Island and there are no parking arrangements at the entrances. To include Seonyudo fully in the ‘Hangang Renaissance’ masterplan, these rules should be reconsidered.