A master plan is currently in place for the former site of the 1988 Summer Olympics. The games that year were held in Seoul, South Korea, at the Jamsil Olympic Stadium. The area is in the midst of transformation, and one bold feature of the plan is The Leaf—an undulating floating park planned for the banks of the Han River. Designed by Heatherwick Studio, the new pier takes the shape of a star with rounded edges that are placed at different elevations.
Though The Leaf is covered in green spaces, it acts as much more than a park. A central plaza holds an auditorium and event spaces for outdoor concerts and performances. From this main public area, visitors follow garden paths that take them through water gardens and carefully considered observation points that frame the features of the city.
“At the heart of our project is the idea of playful togetherness,” said Stuart Wood, Partner and Group Leader at Heatherwick Studio. ”We want this to be a refreshing and dynamic new civic space for the city of Seoul where people come to laugh, explore and connect. Somewhere joyful and restorative for everyone.”
The designers prove that joy and playfulness come naturally when city dwellers are connected to nature. In addition to green spaces, The Leaf integrates a marina and creates an easier means of access for residents to boats and water taxis. Through this new pier, people gain a more intimate connection with the water and nature they are typically only visually connected to.
This is not the first time Heatherwick Studio has brought city dwellers to nature. It’s also not the architects’ first floating park. In 2019, the firm opened Little Island, a new park in New York City defined by massive silos that create an undulating landscape. To learn more about the firm, see all of Heatherwick Studio’s projects on its website.