Architecture & Cities

Seoullo 7017, over 250 tree species planted on a renovated overpass in Seoul

Seoullo 7017 is a new pedestrian walkway built on what was an old and dangerous overpass in Seoul. A symbol of the city’s green transformation.

The project is similar to New York’s famous High Line constructed on the railway that once connected the Meat Market to Midtown. But in the case of Seoullo 7017 in South Korea’s capital Seoul, a walkway has been constructed on an overpass dating back to 1970 where cars once sped along, and where today people can wander and enjoy the revitalised area. 

The Seoullo 7017 project

The city of Seoul isn’t known for its beauty and aesthetics. It was constructed soon after the Korean War as a symbol of the country’s rapid industrialisation, in fact it was built very quickly and starting from the 1960s dozens of elevated highways were created to aid the flow of traffic, with little or no consideration for beauty and architecture. But things are starting to change.

The highway over the tracks that lead into Seoul train station was closed in 2006 as it was found to have serious safety problems, and it was likely to be demolished. But city planners realised it could be turned into a walkway. The project started in 2015 when Dutch architecture firm MVRVD won a competition to transform this abandoned overpass into the Seoul Skygarden aiming to foster a more user-friendly city and inspire a process of change for the entire neighbourhood.

The project includes the presence of 254 species of trees put in Korean alphabetical order with QR codes to access information on the plants, surrounded by cafés, flower shops, street markets, libraries and greenhouses. Stretching for 1,024 metres, it is now called Seoullo 7017, 70 being the year of its foundation as an overpass, and 17 the year of its renovation and opening. In the rather pleasant logo the two Ls of its name are represented by two legs walking. A renovation project that takes into account the importance of the past while working towards the future.

Almost half of the 53 million dollars invested in the project were spent to strengthen the structure. Today the walkway is designed to bear the weight of 50,000 people, 10 times the number that will be allowed on it at any time. Accessible by stairs at specific points, unlike the New York High Line Seoullo connects to commercial buildings with passageways. Illuminated with LED lights at night, it aims to give people a place to walk, learn and enjoy in a once neglected and abandoned area.

254 species of trees along Seullo walkway © Yuri Hyun
254 species of trees along Seullo walkway © Yuri Hyun

Some controversy

Some complaints relating to the project have come from residents and vendors at the market at the end of the walkway. They claim no parking area has been planned and that the area is already one of the most congested in town. Also, real estate speculation is expected to become a problem as new developments are planned in the surrounding areas. But the hope is that Seoullo 7017 will create a stronger sense of community by linking different neighbourhoods together.

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