South Korea (2009)

Client: Korean Ministry of Culture and Tourism; The Korean Design Foundation; The Hope Institute

Cheonggyecheon Stream via flickr user taekwonweirdo

South Korea is making bold strides in creating spaces for people and not just for cars in its largest metropolitan cities. The most highly publicized of these initiatives is the dismantling of the Cheonggye Road, an 80m wide six lane east-west arterial that cut through the center of Seoul, and the uncovering and subsequent restoration of the Cheonggyecheon Stream as a pedestrian Riverwalk. There are other public space improvement plans underway as well: the government plans to complete a 3,000 kilometer bike-only path by 2020, linking major cities nationwide such as Seoul, Busan, Daegu and Gwangju.

The Cheonggyecheon River replaced a six lane east-west arterial through the heart of Seoul

At the invitation of an NGO planning firm, Community Design Lab–a Civic Society Research and Think Tank, as well as the Hope Institute, and the Korean Design Foundation, PPS Vice President Cynthia Nikitin spent a week at the end of March 2009 touring, speaking and brainstorming ways that local communities could become involved in revitalizing their traditional public markets, neighborhood main streets, and transportation corridors. There is no active model for community-based planning in Korea, nor a culture of community involvement in cities. But there seems to be a widespread awareness of and desire for its benefits among planning, architecture, and design professionals and their associations in Korea. The newly created Department of Public Space in the Ministry of Arts and Culture speaks to the popularity and timeliness of this subject as does the fact that two of PPS’s books, “How to Turn a Place Around,” “Public Markets and Community Revitalization,” have been translated into Korean, with a third, “The Great Neighborhood Book,” soon to come.

In Okcheon County, Cynthia gave suggestions for how to link a soon to be re-opened amusement park – re-imagined by over a dozen artists – to a reservoir, bikeway, Village main street and Poet’s house as part of a cultural tourism revitalization plan. In Mokpo, at the southern end of the Korean peninsula, Cynthia advised planners from the Hope Institute how to utilize the principles behind the Power of Ten as part of a master planning process for revitalizing the downtown, port area, a defunct industrial park, and several residential neighborhoods. Post-graduate students at Kunsan University accompanied Cynthia on a tour of a 40 km road that had been rendered redundant by the construction of a new highway, and together they brainstormed ways of redesigning this road for recreational use and how to highlight and link the assets of each of the ten villages along the road.

A mid-block pedestrian crossing in busy downtown Seoul

In May of 2010, the Community Design Lab and PPS will co-host an international public markets conference in Suwon, the only remaining completely walled city in South Korea, located 20 miles south of Seoul. PPS will facilitate training sessions for market mangers and organizers as part of this conference. staff, associates, and clients.