Published Date : Nov 16, 2021 / Edited Date : Oct 31, 2022
A Unique Park Area Located Downtown
At first glance, parks do not seem to serve any special function. However, as a space where we can be with nature in a complex city, it adds vitality to our lives as a place for rest and relaxation. As such, the park does not belong to any of the functional components that make up the city as business, commercial, and residential spaces do. However, it is perhaps the most necessary space.
Mapo-gu in Seoul has a one-of-a-kind park located at its center in the neighborhood of Yeonnam-dong. Coined using a combination of the neighborhood name and Central Park of New York City, Yeontral Park was completed in 2016. The park is beloved by many tourists, as well as local residents. Let’s take a walk and find out how Yeontral Park has become a special space and what architectural elements it features.
From Railway to Urban Green Space
When you come out of exit 3 of Hongik University Station, you will see a row of small shops lined up along a green park. The exact name of this place is Gyeongui Line Forest Park. Trains used to be one of the main modes of transportation, but railroads gradually lost their shine with the advent of automobiles and subways. Such is the case with the Gyeongui Subway Line. However, the railroad itself was harboring the local identity and sparking feelings of nostalgia of the old Yeonnam-dong. With this sensibility, Seoul recreated this old railway over the course of about eight years into a forest park where the long-standing memories of locals, history, and culture come alive.
Gyeongui Line Forest Park is a lengthy *linear park of about 6.3 km, running from Yongsan Culture and Sports Center to Gajwa Station. The last section located in Yeonnam-dong is commonly referred to as “Yeontral Park,” which runs a total length of 1.31 km from Hongik University Station to Gajwa Station. The Yeonnam-dong section is the most popular area along the Gyeongui Line Forest Park with a great deal people coming and going from within the Hongik University Station area and its easy access. The Gyeongui Line Forest Park, consisting of a total of four sections, has a different theme for each section. This Yeonnam-dong section may provide an experience of healing in nature with the motif of a green space that serves as a respite from downtown Seoul where nature and people coexist.
* Linear park: A park formed in that of a straight line
Gyeongui Line Forest Park Yeonnam-dong Section
Yeonnam-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul (From Hongik University Station to Gajwa Station)
Yeontral Park starts from the gate wall that surrounds the sloping greenery. The railways used to be higher than its adjacent streets. As if to show that the topographic features have not been deformed as much as possible along with the motif of the railway, the diagonal gate wall made of rusty railway materials marks the beginning of the park.
Given the nature of a linear park, a long line of greenery areas can make it a boring place. The pedestrian paths, which are lined with ginkgo trees, were designed to change the movement and gaze by drawing diagonal lines on the paths rather than creating a straight line following the shape of the original rail tracks left on the ground. People naturally enjoy the inside of the park along these diagonal paths while relishing a break in the lawn between the paths. In other words, the park itself really attracts a crowd.
The benches in Yeontral Park are a little more unique. These benches are made of stones and wire meshes, which are materials that symbolize a railroad. They become an architectural element called a sitting wall. Like an ordinary bench, these benches offer a function for sitting and resting on its own while naturally separating the space between cars and people at the same time. They are mainly installed in the part facing the road and near the plaza where people gather around. These sitting walls give us a sense of comfort within the space.
After crossing the intersection, the first water of this park, the pond, comes in view. It is in a triangular shape of about 35 meters in width, with a part of the train rails crossing in the water. This pond becomes a point that captures the history of this area. It is said that the architect who designed this pond wanted to place the pond in the location where a clear stream called Songjangnae used to be, and create an image of a train passing over the pond. The pond, which reflects the sound of a cool fountain and the scenery of the seasons like a mirror, has established itself as one of the spaces loved by citizens on Gyeongui Line Forest Park.
If the bench you saw first was a resting place that plays the role of a wall, there is also a pagoda, another resting place that plays a formative role. If the previous path was a space with a dynamic feeling of walking and moving passages, the place where this pergola is located creates a static feeling as a place to stay. It is a place where you can enjoy another relaxation in the park where you can sit comfortably, bask in the sun, drink a cup of coffee, read a book, or enjoy some chit-chat.
Next to the restored railways, a colorful tile mural catches people’s eyes as the most popular photo spot in Yeontral Park. The printed tile mural is an important symbol of how the park was created with neighboring residents. The paintings drawn by residents capturing their wishes were made into tile murals, adding color to the park. It is also a space that shows all the interests and efforts that were given to create this wonderful park by not only the architects who designed the park, but also public officials, residents, and various experts.
Gyeongui Line Forest Park Walking Path
Gyeongui Line Forest Park, Yeonnam-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul
Around the lengthy Yeontral Park are unique shops and cafes. As you walk towards the end of Yeontral Park in the warm sunlight, you’ll see a small building that attracts visitors like an oasis. A gelato ice cream shop called Pietra stands out with its roof that looks like it’s been sliced in half. Its blue and white exterior juxtaposes with the fresh plant life all around the surrounding area.
“Pietra” means stone in Italian. It is said that a lot of efforts were made to express the color, material, and shape of the stone in the space, with this meaning as its underlying concept. The large glass window brings the green light of the small garden in front of the stairs leading to the park and the rooftop right in front of the shop into its space. It creates a feeling as if the park has been moved into its space with the stones, trees, and lights naturally harmonized.
Go up to the rooftop through the stairs, and you can enjoy a bird’s eye view of Gyeongui Line Forest Park. Furniture that looks like it was made of stones on a sandy beach blends in naturally with the surroundings. As we wrap up our little trip through the Gyeongui Line Forest Park, why not stop by and enjoy a gelato ice cream with a selection of naturally-derived flavors you’ve never tasted?
Buildings and architecture form a city, and cities come together to form a country. And that’s why architecture reflects the history and culture of a city as a component of the city. Seoul X Archibear’s A Tour of Seoul’s Streetside Architecture was designed to provide a fresh perspective on the city by sharing the anecdotes of architectural culture while traveling around South Korea’s capital.
Well-built and distinctive architecture can serve as a piece of art carved in our city. And in Seoul, which is rich with diverse history and characteristics, there are beautiful buildings that are worth paying a visit. We hope that this special series helps promote Seoul as an ideal travel destination and invite everyone to experience the hidden architectural beauty in Seoul’s everyday life.
A Tour of Seoul’s Streetside Architecture series was produced by Visit Seoul in collaboration with ArchiBear, a brand created by the architectural culture and travel content company, Haas Studio.
Curious to get more information on architectural tourism in Seoul?
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