How Did Seoul’s Cheonggyecheon River Restoration Get Its Start? TNOC Podcast Episode 10

Philip Silva, New York.  David Maddox, New York. 
11 September 2016

Many voices. Greener cities. Better cities.
The Cheonggyecheon "River" then, as a highway.
The Cheonggyecheon “River” then, covered up by a highway.

Story Notes: A casual chat on a bus nearly thirty years ago led to the improbable removal of a major elevated highway and the restoration of a beloved river in the old city center of Seoul in South Korea.

Dr. Soo Hong Noh, a professor of environmental engineering at Yonsei University, became a champion for bringing back the Cheonggyecheon River in his home city after listening to a colleague fancifully muse about the river’s restoration while they sat together on their evening commute.

The idea stuck, and after a research sabbatical at Ottawa University in Canada, Dr. Noh came back to Seoul intent on finding a way to replace the four-lane Cheonggyecheon Highway with the hidden river from which it got its name.

The daylighted and restored Cheonggyecheon today. Photo: David Maddox
The daylighted and restored Cheonggyecheon today. Photo: David Maddox

In this podcast, produced by Philip Silva, Dr. Noh recounts his work to restore the Cheonggyecheon River, a tale that begins with that fateful bus ride in 1989 and continues through to the present day with similar highway removal efforts around the world drawing inspiration from South Korea. Dr. Noh recently delivered a presentation on the Cheonggyecheon restoration at TransitCenter, a think tank and philanthropic foundation based in New York City.

We caught up with him before his lecture and included some of his public remarks in this podcast.

The Cheonggyecheon restoration. Photo: David Maddox
The Cheonggyecheon restoration. Photo: David Maddox
An art installation on the Cheonggyecheon. Photo: David Maddox
An art installation on the Cheonggyecheon. Photo: David Maddox
Dr. Noh speaking at Transit Center in New York. Photo: Philip Silva.
Dr. Noh speaking at Transit Center in New York. Photo: Philip Silva
Philip Silva

About the Writer:
Philip Silva

Philip's work focuses on informal adult learning and participatory action research in social-ecological systems. He is dedicated to exploring nature in all of its urban expressions.

Philip Silva

Philip Silva

TreeKit, Cornell University Ithaca, NY USA Philip Silva is a Ph.D. student in Natural Resources at Cornell University. His work focuses on informal adult learning and participatory action research in social-ecological systems. For the past four years, Silva taught courses in urban forestry, environmental history, and design at The New School. In 2011, Silva was one of 25 national leaders convened by the US Forest Service to participate in the “Vibrant Cities and Urban Forests” task force. He has worked with some of NYC’s leading environmental organizations, including Sustainable South Bronx, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Just Food, and the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance. Philip is a recipient of the 2010 iLAB Residency of the Interdisciplinary Laboratory for Art, Nature, and Dance (“iLAND”) and a 2009 Fellow of the Environmental Leadership Program. He currently serves as co-founder and co-director of TreeKIT, an initiative to measure, map, and collaboratively manage urban forests. A native of Newark, NJ with a graduate degree in urban policy analysis, Silva is dedicated to exploring nature in all of its urban expressions.

One thought on “How Did Seoul’s Cheonggyecheon River Restoration Get Its Start? TNOC Podcast Episode 10

  1. This is an amazing success story. Shows value of nature – #naturalcapital. Many cities in Europe and UK should follow to secure the benefits of river restoration.
    Dr ingo Schuder, Green Infrastructure Consultant, Brillianto, Oxfordshire, UK

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