MVRDV ‘Weaves’ together ecology and public activity in Seoul, South Korea

‘The Weaves’ is a winning design proposal by MVRDV which aims to revitalise the Tancheon riverfront through a delightful overlay of pedestrian paths, nature and public amenities.

by Jincy Iype Published on : Jan 02, 2020

MVRDV has won a competition, commissioned by the government of Seoul, South Korea, to redesign the Tancheon valley and waterfront, presenting a comprehensive design that reinforces an appealing combination of nature and human bustle in the heart of Seoul. ‘The Weaves’ is planned for the area between Seoul’s earlier Olympic Stadium in the Jamsil district and Gangnam’s business district, and proposes to bring together a delightful overlay of bicycle and pedestrian paths, nature and public amenities. The construction is expected to begin in 2021, with completion planned for 2024.

The Weaves is planned between Seoul’s earlier Olympic Stadium in the Jamsil district and Gangnam’s business district | The Weaves | MVRDV | STIRworld
The Weaves is planned between Seoul’s earlier Olympic Stadium in the Jamsil district and Gangnam’s business district Image Credit: Atchain, Courtesy of MVRDV

The Weaves is envisioned in an area which is currently dominated by surface car parking and elevated highway structures, the point where the rivers Tancheon and Han meet. The Weaves aims to revamp a kilometre long stretch of the Tancheon River, in addition to revamping a significant waterfront area along the Han river, completely. The jury described that MVRDV’s design “shows great balance between ecology and the creative program, and offers an outstanding strategy to provide urban event spaces and resting areas to citizens, encouraging many different target users to take advantage of the site.”

  • The aim is to revamp a kilometre long stretch of the Tancheon River, and a significant waterfront area along the Han river | The Weaves | MVRDV | STIRworld
    The aim is to revamp a kilometre long stretch of the Tancheon River, and a significant waterfront area along the Han river Image Credit: Atchain, Courtesy of MVRDV
  • Naturalization Concept and Circulation Intervention | The Weaves | MVRDV | STIRworld
    Naturalization Concept and Circulation Intervention Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV

The design’s concept weaves three features of the landscape – natural ecosystems, access for pedestrians and a rich public involvement programme. A tangle of paths arises from the river below, forming a crossing that has a viewing platform, a small tribune and a media floor, presenting a key feature of the proposal - the pedestrian bridge connecting the Olympic Park to the district of Gangnam. This undulating bridge leads to a path that goes through the Olympic Stadium, curves around and concludes at a group of divaricating routes called the ‘Tree pier’, and eventually cascading into the Han River.

The marina - a group of divaricating routes called the ‘Tree pier’ which cascades into the Han River | The Weaves | MVRDV | STIRworld
The marina - a group of divaricating routes called the ‘Tree pier’ which cascades into the Han River Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV

The path also incorporates the Event Dome, another group of raised crossing paths that form spaces for viewing and a semi-covered event space below it. This is the family playground, where the path diverges into many lines, creating climbing structures, benches, and animal figures, consequently initiating ample public activity. The area will also see the Seoul Water Path, a part of the route which extends out over the Han river, spelling out ‘Seoul’ in a looped script.

The Event Dome | The Weaves | MVRDV | STIRworld
The Event Dome Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV

The waterfront revitalisation plan looks at bringing back the river to a more natural state, by changing the hard landscaping and replacing it with lavish green river banks. This digresses the river from a straight canal to a meandering stream, and relaxes its banks by adding native flora that includes aquatic plants, blurring the boundary between land and water. Also adding to a healthier waterfront ecosystem is the employment of water retention pools, islands and purification streams.

  • The Seoul Water Path | The Weaves | MVRDV | STIRworld
    The Seoul Water Path Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV
  • Key concept diagram – Design Strategies | The Weaves | MVRDV | STIRworld
    Key concept diagram – Design Strategies Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV

Earlier, the government had plans to decommission and demolish sections of the site’s highways to incorporate newer and more efficient paths. In response, MVRDV proposed to keep intact the structures and transform them, rather than do away with them completely. The verdant design will therefore observe a vigorous network of interrelated paths, permitting easy pedestrian access to the waterfront, forming spaces and opportunities for visitors to engage directly with nature. These winding pathways are built across levels, crossing over other paths and forming a bridge over water, or linking to pedestrian routes, actively integrating the existing infrastructural network on the site with the fresh design. It is also inspired by Jamsil’s history of silk production, emulating the past in its tangled, overlapping paths.

The Plaza – a vigorous network of interrelated paths | The Weaves | MVRDV | STIRworld
The Plaza – a vigorous network of interrelated paths Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV

This mesh of routes leads us to the third element of the design proposal, which is a lively public programme of the park. “The paths overlap and intersect, split and recombine, twist and turn, and rise and fall to create plazas, viewing points, amphitheatres, cafés, and other amenities. The result is a public park with a dramatic three-dimensional character,” explains the design team.

Stepping stones employed near the water body | The Weaves | MVRDV | STIRworld
Stepping stones employed near the water body Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV, Seoahn Total Landscape Architecture

Out of the existing infrastructure preserved on the site, one highway ramp which runs along the western side of the Tancheon river will be remodelled into a raised park, connecting itself to the rest of the network paths in the proposed design. Another section of the highway which crosses the Tancheon river’s front will be preserved to be developed as a cycling hub, while most of it will be taken down.  

A wet sand land in The Weaves | The Weaves | MVRDV | STIRworld
A wet sand land in The Weaves Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV, Seoahn Total Landscape Architecture

“Seoul is taking amazing steps to transform grey and obsolete infrastructure into lively green and social spaces”, says MVRDV founding partner Winy Maas. “The Weaves is a design that introduces natural landscape combined with exceptional, varied access. It also responds to the local identity. Jamsil is known for its history of silk production and the design recalls the tangled silk threads of its past in a unique and playful way. It becomes an intertwining poem where movement becomes landscape poetry.”

The Weaves was completed by MVRDV, with NOW Architect working as the local co-architect and Seoahn Total Landscape Architecture.

  • Masterplan | The Weaves | MVRDV | STIRworld
    Masterplan Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV
  • Design Program | The Weaves | MVRDV | STIRworld
    Design Program Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV
  • Design Intervention: Environmental, Water Ecology and Recycling | The Weaves | MVRDV | STIRworld
    Design Intervention: Environmental, Water Ecology and Recycling Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV
  • Landscape | The Weaves | MVRDV | STIRworld
    Landscape Image Credit: Courtesy of MVRDV

Project Details

Name of the project: The Weaves
Location: Jamsil, Seoul
Client: Seoul Metropolitan Government
Size and Programme: 630,000 sqm park and infrastructure
Architect: MVRDV
Founding Partner in charge: Winy Maas
Partner/Director: Wenchian Shi
Design Team: Kyo Suk Lee, Shengjie Zhan, Dongmin Lee, Gabriele Piazzo, Michele Tavola
Co-Architect: NOW Architect (Seoul, South Korea)
Landscape Architect: Seoahn Total Landscape Architecture
Structural engineer: Saman Corporation and Hanmac Engineering
Lighting Advisor: Huel Design

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About Author

Jincy Iype

Jincy Iype

Iype is a trained architect, who often indulges in writing and amateur photography. She was a cinephile and a melophile even before she knew what those words meant. She is inclined towards architecture journalism, and can usually be found curled up reading a book, or cooking for therapeutic relief.

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