20 October 2007

field trip #1: seonyudo park

what do wandering confucian gentleman scholars and sewage treatment plants have in common? both have called seonyudo home!

for our first field trip we go to seonyudo park, a small island in the han river on seoul's west side.

during the joseon dynasty, wandering confucian gentleman scholars, or seonbi (선비), used the island to paint and compose poetry. in a dramatic change of fortunes, in recent history the island was the site of a sewage treatment plant. in 2001, seonyudo was transformed into an eco-consciousness park.

described by the city as a "postmodern space," seonyudo's former treatment plant's structures and facilities were preserved and integrated into a series of elaborate gardens with water as its principle theme. for example, bygone settling basins for water treatment chemicals are now home to many species of aquatic plants that naturally purfiy water. in a large recessed grassy area, dozens of vine-covered 15-foot high supporting columns that once held up a reservoir's concrete slab roof now stand roofless. in addition to the gardens are a han river history museum, a 200-seat ampitheater, a greenhouse and a café, among other facilities.

eco-consciousness is big around here these days, with an ambitious 30+ year "hangang river renaissance" project underway. a kiosk near the park's opening promotes the city's environmental strategic plan for the han river and the city that surrounds it. the grand vision is indeed exciting, but typically i find most of seoul's many public art and civic spaces and "livability projects" easy to criticize. they often feel clumsy, uninspired and/or poorly designed. in grand contrast is seonyudo, which almost seamlessly integrates the island's industrial past with the city's aspirations for a greener future. hopefully this bodes well for the renaissance plan's future projects!

over the past 2 weeks i visited seonyudo twice~ once on a busy saturday morning, and again on a weekday evening. on my day trip, dozens of expensive slr cameras were capturing the park's colorful environmental/ industrial juxtaposition. since auto access is limited, most guests entered via the arched "rainbow" footbridge that connects the island to the yangwha section of the hangang river park. during my night visit, i saw a surprising number of couples in search of romance enjoying the light sculptures and a weird, amateur-ish dance performance whose free juice and beer elicited more excitement than the dancers' vertical humping.

guided park tours are available in japanese and english. open 06:00 to 24:00. it's free.

getting there:

→ take subway line 2 to dangsan station (exit #1), then take a bus (605, 6623, 6631, 6632, 6633) and get off at hanshin apts. cross over rainbow bridge.
→ or, take subway line 2 or 6 to hapjeong station (exit #8), then take a bus (604, 5712, 6712, 6716) and get off at hanshin apts. cross over rainbow bridge.
→ or, from hapjeong station walk to the bridge and enjoy nice views of the city while inhaling lots of vehicle exhaust.

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