MVRDV's SkyGarden Opens in Seoul

©. MVRDV via Dezeen

When important projects get built we often have a look back and the renderings and wonder, did it live up to the hype? When MVRDV won a competition to turn an old elevated expressway into a park, I wondered about it, writing:

Everywhere you look these days, cities have either Highlinitis or Bilbaosis, trying to imitate the magic that attracts thousands of people and revitalizes cities and neighborhoods. But can you really compare this project in Seoul to the High Line?

And indeed, Dezeen calls it "South Korea's answer to New York's High Line, the 983-metre-long park occupies a stretch of the 1970s highway destined for demolition. It now contains 24,000 trees, shrubs and flowers set into cylindrical planters." But in many ways it is a very different thing.

skygarden over highway

© MVRDV via Dezeen

I also wasn’t sure if it would be very nice to actually walk on, being on top of a highway and a rail yard.

The High Line is surrounded by stuff to look at and has lots of access points. This overpass will act as a useful shortcut for people who no longer have to walk around the station to get to the big Namedaemun Market, but doesn't provide much of a view of anything but tracks and highways leading into the railway station. The high line provides and outward view; this is far more introspective and inward looking.
skygarden top view


Now that it is finished, I have to say that I am impressed at how in most cases, it looks pretty much like the renderings; here is the closest match between the concept and the built project.

skygarden from above

© MVRDV via Dezeen

And in a few years when the plants have grown up a bit more might even be more like them.


© MVRDV via Dezeen

You can see here how they strive to make it inward looking, they even have some kind of screen to act as a visual break, because all there appears to be to look at outside is a road full of cars.

people enjoying skygarden

© MVRDV via Dezeen

It is also just the start. According to MVRDV,

In the future, the overpass will evolve with new plants and new activators so as to become an ‘urban nursery’, rearing trees for the surrounding districts. Additional structures of stairs, lifts and escalators as well as new ‘satellite’ gardens, can connect to the Skygarden, sprouting like branches from the existing structural piers. These extensions can inspire further additions to the area’s greenery and public spaces, and will connect the Skygarden to its surroundings both physically and visually through plant species related to each of the neighbourhoods.
walking along skygarden


Two years ago I wrote:

Highlinitis and Bilbaosis are terrible urban diseases where good ideas that work in one place spread and infect other cities where they do not have the same magical effect. However this is a useful bridge that will get pedestrians across this vast sea of rail lines in style and comfort. It looks like it will be magical in its own, original way.
Skygarden walkway

© MVRDV via Dezeen

And I think that they have pulled it off. It is a useful pedestrian connection on a highway that could no longer carry cars, and it looks really popular. The number of CCTV cameras on tall poles is a bit scary, but that's urban life these days. Lots more images on Dezeen and Inhabitat.


© MVRDV via Dezeen