Grand visions for a greener Seoul

Amy Hodgson
Monday 01 Feb 2010

Integrated concept combines entertainment, education and Korean cultural heritage

A team led by planning, design and engineering firm AECOM has won an international competition for a concept design and feasibility study for Seoul Grand Park in Korea. The winning entry, Gaia: The Living World, envisions an integrated entertainment and educational experience that revitalizes the urban realm and showcases Korean heritage.

Seoul Grand Park, a 560-hectare destination with an existing zoo and an amusement park, has provided an important entertainment and recreational function to the community for thirty years. The Seoul Metropolitan Government-sponsored competition drew 21 entries from around the world, with ideas to improve the public space for citizens and better position the site as a regional and international tourist destination. The AECOM team, which included local firms Ga-One Landscape Design and Group Han Associates, as well as Thinkwell Design & Production and Bernard Harrison & Friends, conducted an economic analysis and created a design that combines the amusement park, zoo and botanical garden with new attractions into a one-of-a-kind destination.

“The new Seoul Grand Park vision reinforces the park’s dual commitment to the living environment and entertainment,” said Joe Brown, FASLA, chief executive of Planning, Design + Development at AECOM. “The Living World aspires to be a place of excitement and reflection, encounter and education, where the lines between zoo and theme park disappear in a celebration of ecosystems, culture and history.”

The AECOM team brings together multidisciplinary experts from the region and worldwide, including master planners, landscape architects, architects, zoo designers, themed-content developers, and economists. The proposal opens the entire lakefront for community use, reconnecting the city to the waterfront and breaking down the traditional segregated organizational structure of visitor attractions and programming.

The new design combines conventionally separate experiences into one. Lush botanical displays, exotic animal exhibits, and exciting rides are woven together to provide a comprehensive, informed experience of our Living World. The plan proposes new attractions, including Seoul Walk and Lakeside Park, a Night Safari at the Great Savanna, Korean Forest, Jungle Cruise, and an entry Winter Garden complete with a giant waterfall.

AECOM is renowned for a broad range of planning and design services for cities, public realms and urban parks, including the 2012 London Olympics Legacy Masterplan framework and Saadiyat Island masterplan. Its connection to Seoul Grand Park extends to its former companies EDAW, a landscape architecture and planning firm which developed the original theme park plan in the 1980’s, and ERA, an economic consulting firm who conducted the economic feasibility study of the original Seoul Grand Park in the late 1970’s and a revitalization program for the Seoul Zoo in 2001.

Howard Altman, Senior Vice President with AECOM’s Design + Planning practice, directed the original design and participated in the current competition. “This is a unique opportunity to re-think Seoul Grand Park, taking amusement and zoo attractions into a new paradigm of leisure, entertainment and learning for the future.”

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