Skygarden, by Dutch architects MVRDV, is a newly opened “linear park” in Seoul, reviving a disused elevated highway near the city’s central railway station by outfitting it with cafés, a market, performance spaces—and 24,000 plants. It’s a notable example of urban innovation in a city that’s doing its best to beautify itself under the guidance of an activist mayor, Park Won-soon.
The original highway’s concrete was strengthened, and escalators, stairs, and elevators were added to create ground-level access points. Businesses in adjoining buildings were required to pay for bridges connecting them to the walkway, affirming the value of the rejuvenation.
The greenery along the length of Skygarden is a veritable encyclopedia of indigenous plants, arranged by name according to the Korean alphabet.
Lit nightly by artificial blue light that is said to help the plants thrive, the walkway answers a need for pedestrian-friendly space within a congested city, according to Young Joon Kim, Seoul’s second official city architect and coordinator of Skygarden. “When you look at things over a longer period it’s clear that citizens have to have car-free zones,” he told the Guardian. “It’s not a kind of taste, it’s the way to go, like [in] many other cities.”