Cities change, as citizens change, as society changes, and the world changes, and eventually, as climate changes …
Cities are dynamic entities, continually balancing to combine economic, social, and ecologic interests again and again. Maybe, the latter could be ignored for a long time of human history, but the actual circumstances, show that they are at least as important as the other ones. Moreover, without the latter the first two will eventually become impossible.
Seoul, the capital of South Korea, has some remarkable examples of how a city adapts itself to the changing circumstances, the changing needs, and the changing reality.
Worldcup on Waste
The wind waves the cane around me, my eyes are burning because of the sun and the cold; I feel like being at the coast, nearby the fresh and oxygenised air of the sea. Nevertheless, I’m standing on top of a landfill in the middle of Seoul, or let’s say, a former landfill.
Exactly where the metropole used to drop its waste, the city created five huge parks in the middle of the city, like an oasis of air, light, and silence. I stand at Haneul Park, created at top of Landfill No.2, Out of here I can see Noeul Park, created at top of Landfill No.1. Under me is the result of 15 years long dropping 28,877 tons of waste every day. From 1978 until 1992, about 9,200 million ton of waste was piled up, extending over 246,303 m2, and reaching an altitude of 100 meters, the Nanjido landfill.
A huge Landfill Recovery Project took off in the 1990s, to eventually locate the 2002 Japan-Korea World Cup Stadium on the site. Eventually the gran World Cup Park contains the five smaller parks, being Nanjicheon Park, Noeul Park, Haneul Park, Pyonghwa Park, and Nanji Han River Park; nowadays, all together they attract about 10 million visitors a year. Showing, how a mega event can contribute to sustainability, such as the goal for the Olympics 2020 in Tokyo.
Since the stabilisation of the landfill, and the development of the ecological parks, the surrounding ecosystems are recovering. Moreover, the methane gasses created by the biodegradation of the waste, which were sources of fire and air pollution, are nowadays captured and used as energy source for district heating. And the new waste? That is recycled or burned in a waste-to-energy plant, to provide additional energy to those districts.
This time of the year the cane is coloured gold, and schools pass by to visit the park and let the children enjoy the benefits of nature in the city. Even though the temperature is about eight degrees below zero, the joy of sun and playing children covers up the cold. As a result, the World Cup park does not only show that two countries can cooperate peacefully to reach a bigger goal, but that man and nature can cooperate as well, and restore the latter in its value.
Since the park is built on a hill, the landfill, the view is astonishing, at my right hand side is the Han river with all its bridges, one for trains, some for cars, and another one for pedestrians only. One of them stops in the middle of the river, and continues only by structurally scattered pillars, which will one day continue the bridge for real.
Seoul is developing, not only at the river side. And choosing to develop green areas over residential or industrial areas illustrate the importance of nature in the city of Seoul, as an oasis necessary to make the city liveable, and breathable; bridging the created gap between nature and urbanization.
Green spaces are crucial for the liveability of the city, they are the lungs, the safehouse, the oasis.
Seoul shows that there are various ways to create those spaces, when the city is lacking them.
And Seoul has more to show us, but that’s for a next post