Unused architecture can find new life in unexpected ways. In New York City, a set of above-ground train tracks was transformed into an innovative linear park called the High Line, and it has proved to be a haven for tourists and residents alike. Seoul has followed suit with the recent opening of Skygarden, a 983-meter-long once-abandoned highway converted into a lush elevated walkway. At night, the unconventional park is illuminated with a tranquil blue glow.
Rotterdam-based architecture firm MVRDV is responsible for the look and feel of the Seoul Skygarden, which is locally known as Seoullo 7017. They’ve taken a previously cold, concrete structure and infused it with life by adding large planters artfully arranged along the walkway. All told, it features 24,000 individual plants from 228 species and subspecies. “Our design offers a living dictionary of plants which are part of the natural heritage of South Korea and now, existing in the city center,” Winy Maas, founding partner of MVRDV, said. “The idea here is to connect city dwellers with nature, while at the same time also offering the opportunity of experiencing these amazing views to the Historical Seoul Station and Namdaemun Gate.”
When Maas says “living dictionary,” they mean it. While Seoullo 7017 is a place of reprieve, it’s also an educational experience. “They [plants] are planted in containers of different size and height and organized in groups of families. The families are ordered according to the Korean alphabet,” explained Maas. “This leads to surprising spatial compositions.” It also changes specific areas of the park depending on the time of year. Maple trees, for example, decorate the Skygarden with vibrant foliage in the fall, while cherry blossoms will help ring in the spring season.
Although the primary focus of the park is its plants, there’s a commercial component as well. Galleries, tea houses, a theater, and restaurants are located along the walkway and accessible via both its path and a series of on-ramps located throughout.