When we are talking about urban acupuncture, we are talking about a healing system for the city. All urban areas are going to have problems, some more than others, and some have solutions more difficult than the others.
Seoul was one of the urban spaces that had to face a huge problem with a “simple” solution. Not long ago, towards the end of the 50’s, Seoul had the river Cheonggyecheon buried to support the new elevated highway crossing the city, a symbol of modernization to South Korea.
Similar to the U.S. and other countries that grew in the era of the automobile, South Korea was facing now a huge problem with the highway. What was the mark of the future for decades, later was considered a ‘cancer’ within the urban fabric. Traffic and pollution cut the city in half, the abstract wall segregated not just the north part from the south, but also the humans from the downtown. It was dangerous to be right in the middle of Seoul.
Because of that, in 2003, Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-bak started the Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project, simple solution for the issues stemming from the freeway. Destroying everything. Simply said, but not easy to do, the idea was to tear down the highway and bring back the river that was buried to create an urban park that bridges the gap and brings people together. Over 75% of the material torn down from the old highway was reused to construct the park and rehabilitate the stream. Now fish, birds and insects have made their way back into the urban river, and the area surrounding the park is about 3.6 deg C cooler than other parts of the city.
Now Seoul is a great example for the world because of the recover of the natural environment to the city.