Seoullo 7017: Reducing environmental inequalities (Part 1)

Source (Cover Image): Korea Tourism Organisation 

Background of Seoullo 7017 (서울로 7017)

Seoullo 7017 is a project that involves the building of a pedestrianised sky garden atop of the old Seoul Station overpass. Its name is derived from it being a traffic road in the 70s to a sky garden in 2017. There are also additional meanings to the “17” – with the pedestrianised garden road is divided into 17 unique sections, and the road being located 17 meters above the ground (Seoul Metropolitan Government, 2016).

Video 1. Overview of Seoullo 7017 and the areas nearby

Source: Droneshot, 2017

Screen Shot 2017-12-25 at 12.23.46 am.png

Figure 1. Overview of the 17 pedestrian roads connected to the main road of Seoullo 7017

Source: Seoul Metropolitan Government, 2016

Reducing environmental inequality in Seoul

I learnt about Seoullo 7017 from an article in The Guardian earlier this year (Figure 2). What amazed me about the project was its massive scale of greening: the path is lined with 24,000 plants, which are indigenous species arranged according to the Korean alphabets. Furthermore, the sky garden has the potential of becoming an urban nursery, where when plants grow too big, they can be replanted elsewhere in the city, or sold.

Screen Shot 2017-12-25 at 12.36.01 am.png

Figure 2. An article from The Guardian which lauded the success of Seoullo 7017, in comparison to the abandoned Garden Bridge project in London, despite an estimated £46.4m being spent in the planning.

Source: The Guardian, 2017

As such, Seoullo 7017 epitomises nature’s services, of how urban areas can mitigate their own negative externalities (Pincetl, 2010). Seoullo 7017 is a micro-scale reforestation project, where the increased number of trees and its consequential benefits helps to alleviate the prevalent problems associated with urbanisation i.e. improving air quality, reducing rainfall runoff, reducing people’s stress levels, etc(Heynen et al., 2006). However, due to the benefits that urban trees and plants bring, the social production and access to green spaces like Seoullo 7017, is important in shaping just and unjust urban landscapes (Landry and Chakraborty, 2009)

With rising wealth in cities worldwide, there has been an increase in preference for quiet and personal green spaces and thus, privatisation of green spaces (Coolen and Meesters, 2012). This becomes problematic as urban residents without the financial ability will suffer from being ‘unable to produce local and healthy urban ecologies for themselves’ and hence heavily depend on public ecological amenities (Heynen et al., 2006: 5). 

Concluding thoughts

Therefore, Seoullo 7017, a public space with no exclusionary rules, serves to benefit disadvantaged urban residents who are reliant on public investment and green initiatives for their consumption of urban ecological amenities (Heynen et al., 2006).

In this post, I investigated how Seoullo 7017 has enabled the reduction of environmental inequalities in Seoul. However, I noticed other recurring themes and concerns raised and will hence examine the flip side of how Seoullo 7017 could potentially widen other aspects of urban inequality in my next post.

[370 words]

References:

  • Seoul Metropolitan Government (2016) Seoullo 7017. Seoul Metropolitan Government, [online]. Available at: http://seoullo7017.seoul.go.kr/SSF/GLO/ENG/M000.do [Accessed 15 Dec. 2017]
  • Pincetl, S. (2010) From the sanitary city to the sustainable city: challenges to institutionalising biogenic (nature’s services) infrastructure. Local Environment, 15, 1, 43-58.

  • Heynen, N., H.A. Perkins and P. Roy (2006) The Political Ecology of Uneven Urban Green Space – The Impact of Political Economy on Race and Ethnicity in Producing Environmental Inequality in Milwaukee. Urban Affairs Review, 42, 1, 3-25.
  • Coolen, H. and J. Meesters (2012) Private and public green spaces: meaningful but different settings. Journal of Housing and the Built Environment, 27, 1, 49-67.
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