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Contemporary Designed Landscapes: Chongae Canal Restoration Project

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Architecture
Wordcount: 1721 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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Chongae Canal Restoration Project

This essay will examine the Chongae Canal restoration project. A social, political and environmental project. What was a polluted waterway later covered with elevated freeways is now a valuable urban park in a city lacking in green urban spaces (Green, 2010). The park’s celebration of cultural diversity appears to represent a vision of the district as one free of discrimination (Development Asia, 2019).  That has the potential to propose meaningful public discourse around the community’s identity. The park was preferred for critical examination because of its distinctive narrative about community diversity, potential to influence cultural exchanges and a feeling of belonging (Nemes, 2019).

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When examining contemporary designed landscapes, Barbara Bender (2006) outlines how landscape is a subjective notion experienced and engaged with through human consciousness and active involvement. The similar place at the same moment will be experienced differently by different people (Bender, 2006). Landscape design has the ability to influence exchanges between people and the environment. A critical understanding of these exchanges has been informed by examining the social, environmental and aesthetic values that inform place making decisions (Meyer, 2008). These three distinctive components form part of any designed landscape in the public space of an urban environment.

Urban spaces are able to provide distinctive social values as complex meeting points of diverse cultural and social exchanges (Taun, 1979). Mikyoung Kim Design won the international competition for Chongae Canal restoration project that aimed to highlight the reunification of North and South Korea. Kim’s design was a stone garden (Nemes, 2019).  This involved the use of local stones sourced from the eight provinces of both North and South Korea to create an urban stone garden (Green, 2010). In the era of the optimistic “Sunshine Policy”, when South Korean leaders thought reunification with North Korea was imminent. The Chongae Canal project was to be the site of the reunification ceremony (Development Asia, 2019).

Renewal and transformation are often associated with water offering a perfect setting to bring together the community in this beautiful public space (Meyer, 2008). The seven-mile-long Chongae Canal was once a river that collected water from surrounding mountains.  Over the decades, it became a conduit for wastewater and raw sewage (Land8, 2109). By the early 1960s, the canal had become a symbol of poverty, and so dangerous that you couldn’t even touch the water. It was eventually covered over with an elevated highway dividing the city (Land8, 2109).

The Seoul government took down the highway and decided to open up the river for public use.   The design also eased the heat island effect, prevented flooding which used to be a major concern during Monsoon season and reduced air pollution (Development Asia, 2019). Its success can be measured by its popularity the canal has received since its opening in 2005 more than ten million visitors (Asla.org, 2019).

According to Meyers (1997) symbolic forms, rich in associations, crystallize ideas and feelings which would otherwise escape definition; their existence enables individuals, whose own vague thoughts and feelings are otherwise unformulated, to participate in a collective ritual with others.

Mikyoung Kim stone garden design visually expresses the level of the water. Water levels changes over the distinctive designed stones (Nemes, 2019). The stones design created a sloped plaza guided by the water levels at different times daily and throughout the year, allowing users to engage directly with it (Nemes, 2019). The design of the nine stones was to represent the nine provinces of Korea as a whole. The stone garden design is a cultural narrative which has the power to build a sense of community identity (Asla.org, 2019). Chongae Park has become an important space for community events and social interaction (Nemes, 2019). Successful public spaces have a design language and character all of their own, but can embrace different kind of activity and discovery (Taun, 1979).

Landscape design has developed over time to become an art form of its own. Meyer (2008) believes that landscapes now are experienced rather than showcased, and that an urban environment’s form is equal to, if not exceeded by, the performance of its appearance. Elizabeth Meyer (1997) explains that landscape architectural history and theory should be about the cultural, geomorphological, and ecological history of the pre-existing site, as well as the history of both the design project and designer.

The Chongae urban park was chosen for critical examination because of its distinctive narrative about community diversity, potential to influence cultural exchanges and a feeling of belonging. The beauty of the park’s visual identity is that it is a response to the idea that all cultures have a place in this park. Projecting the identity of the community in a visual way has created a spectacle out of what makes it unique, and given it a physical place to be celebrated (Meyer, 2008). This allows for emotional connection, meaning and understanding to address the diverse cultural, social and economic situations of the neighbourhood (Taun, 1979). These visual techniques are successful in creating varying intensities of sensory and spatial experience that address the diversity of needs and interests that the community would expect of an urban park (Jackson, 1994). As representations of culture, the objects are positive social influences, however it is the thoughts, discussions and behaviour that they would inspire in the community that are the constructive social outcomes to be encouraged (Jackson, 1994) .

The restoration also has stimulated local economic growth.  It is estimated that the Chongae project had a considerable economic benefit to the local economy (Development Asia, 2019). Soothing political issues, offering environmental benefits, and improving the population’s quality of life were the result of successful planning.


Chongae Canal Restoration Project

Figure 1. Timeline of Chongae Canal history. Source. asla.org

Figure 2. Rendered site plan Chongae restoration project. Source. asla.org

Figure 3. Rendered aerial perspective Chongae restoration project.   Source. asla.org

Figure 4. Photo of Chongae urban park activities.  Source. asla.org


  • Bender, B. (2006). Place and Landscape. In Tilley, C., Keane, W., Kuechler-Fogden, S., Rowlands, M., & Spyer, P. (Eds.), Handbook of material culture. (pp. 303-315). Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.com
  • Jackson, John Brinckerhoff. 1994. ‘Chapter 8 : The Past and Future Park.’ In A Sense of Place, a Sense of Time, 104–16. New Haven: Yale University Press. Retrieved from
  • https://content.talisaspire.com/qut/bundles/575ecbfae7ebb6e90c000024
  • Meyer, Elizabeth K. 1997. ‘Chapter 2 : The Expanded Field of Landscape Architecture.’ In Ecological Design and Planning, Wiley series in sustainable design: 45–79. New York: John Wiley.
  • Retrieved from https://content.talisaspire.com/qut/bundles/575ecc12e7ebb6e90c000029
  • Meyer, Elizabeth K. 2008. ‘Sustaining Beauty: The Performance of Appearance, a Manifesto in Three Parts.’ Journal of Landscape Architecture (JOLA) 3 (1): 6–23.
  • Retrieved from https://www-tandfonline-com.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/doi/pdf/10.1080/18626033.2008.9723392
  • Tuan, Yi-Fu. 1979. ‘Chapter 13 : Time and Place.’ In Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience, 179–98. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.  Retrieved from http://qut.eblib.com.au.ezp01.library.qut.edu.au/patron/Read.aspx?p=310154&pg=190.
  • Green, Colin. 2010. ‘Case study brief – The restoration of the river Cheonggyecheon, Seoul’, SWITCH – Managing Water for the City of the Future. Retrieved from, http://www.switchurbanwater.eu/outputs/pdfs/W6-1_GEN_DEM_D6.1.6_Case_study_-_Seoul.pdf
  • Nemes, G. (2019). ChonGae Canal Restoration | Mikyoung Kim Design – Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning, Site Art. [Online] Myk-d.com. Available at: http://myk-d.com/projects/chongae-canal-restoration/. [Accessed 25 April 2019].
  • Designing Our Future: Sustainable Landscapes. 2019. Chon Gae Canal Point Source Park. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.asla.org/sustainablelandscapes/chongae.html. [Accessed 25 April 2019].
  • Land8. (2019). The ChonGae Canal Turns an Auto-Centric Zone into a Pedestrian Haven. [Online] Available at: https://land8.com/the-chongae-canal-turns-an-auto-centric-zone-into-a-pedestrian-haven/. [Accessed 25 April 2019].
  • Development Asia. (2019). Revitalizing a City by Reviving a Stream. [Online] Available at: https://development.asia/case-study/revitalizing-city-reviving-stream [Accessed 1 May 2019].


  • Figure 1. https://www.asla.org/2009awards/images/largescale/091_06.jpg
  • Figure 2.  https://www.asla.org/2009awards/images/largescale/091_08.jpg
  • Figure 3.  https://www.asla.org/2009awards/images/largescale/091_01.jpg
  • Figure 4.  https://www.asla.org/2009awards/images/largescale/091_03.jpg


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