Restoring Seoul's Cheonggyecheon River / The 10th Veronica Rudge Green Prize in Urban Design


The aging elevated freeway and concrete deck covering the Cheonggyecheon stream posed safety risks and needed to be repaired or removed. The government wanted to improve connectivity between the city’s north and south sides, which the freeway divided. Transportation experts were concerned that removing the elevated highway would increase traffic congestion and chaos in the northern end of the city since it carried 169,000 vehicles per day. The idea of removing the freeway also met initial opposition from many local business owners. The proposed stream restoration also presented challenges. Water is not naturally present in the Cheonggyecheon for most of the year except during the summer rainy season, making it difficult to create a consistent urban amenity.



The Seoul Metropolitan Government chose to dismantle the elevated freeway and concrete deck covering the stream. To improve north-south linkages, 22 bridges — 12 pedestrian bridges and 10 for automobiles and pedestrians — were proposed to connect the two sides of the Cheonggyecheon. To reduce traffic congestion, car use was discouraged in the city center, rapid bus lines were added, and improved loading and unloading systems were implemented. To address business owners’ concerns, the Seoul Metropolitan Government held over 4,200 meetings to build consensus. Economic support was given to businesses and special agreements were made with vendors who had to move due to project construction. To address the variable flow of the Cheonggyecheon, water from the Han River and several subway pump stations is treated and pumped to create a consistent flow with an average depth of 40 centimeters in the Cheonggyecheon.

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