Inhabitable Crossing(s): Bridge Across the Han River

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Calvin Chua

Studio Objectives

Bridges are important urban infrastructure in cities. From the Tower Bridge in London to the Rialto Bridge in Venice and the High Line in New York, the identity of the city has been shaped by the
presence of these bridges. In Seoul, while there are more than 30 bridges along the Han River connecting the southern and northern parts of the city, there are none that singularly define the
identity of the city. These bridges, each measuring 1 to 1.5km long, only serve the functional purpose of providing transportation connection.

In partnership with the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism 2023, we will envision the future of a sustainable future of Seoul linking both sides of the Han River through an inhabitable bridge across Nodeul Island. Located in a central location, the development of Nodeul Island has been contested between different mayoral administrations. From the proposal of an opera house in the mid 2000s to the current simple public architecture and future plans for an iconic cultural facility, the contested development of Nodeul island serves as a reflection on the means, method and model of urban regeneration.

Therefore, the central interest of this studio is to design new forms of bridge infrastructure that can serve as a model of rejuvenation for the Han River and Seoul. Can the design of a bridge reduce the development pressure of Nodeul Island? How do we design human-scale inhabitable bridge infrastructure that allows for everyday inhabitation and urban living?

The studio will begin the semester by uncovering the typology of the bridge (both real and theoretical projects) and the role it plays in shaping the culture and everyday use of the city. In addition, given the linearity of the bridge typology, we will also analyse linear (kilometre-long) urban infrastructure in Seoul, including public plazas, parks, sheltered market, underground malls and industrial slab. The aim is this exercise is to provide a typological understanding of bridges and linear infrastructure in cities through its form, typology, structure, operations and experiences.

Subsequently, the studio will apply the same method of analysis to the wider context of the project site. Supporting the typological analysis of the bridge and linear infrastructure, we will be conducting a cartographic analysis of the wider site context of Noryangjin in the south to Yongsan and in the north, revealing the interconnections between the physical, social, historical, economic, environmental conditions of the site.

Supporting the analysis will be a study trip to Seoul during Recess Week. Apart from carrying out further in-depth site analysis, the trip will provide the studio with an appreciation of the urban density and urban morphology of Seoul and the role of urban infrastructure in establishing multi-modal connectivity in the city.

This will be followed by defining a collective narrative and urban framework for the area, centring on the north-south ecological belt across the Han River as a development area. The studio will
subsequently be divided into smaller groups to design a bridge across Han River via Nodeul Island. Measuring 1000 – 1500m in length and 100 – 200m in width, the bridge should consist of a mixture of commercial facilities, park environments, public buildings, fabrication facilities, artistic living communities, etc. Particular attention should also be given to reimagining new forms of ‘soft mobility’ where trains, cars and other autonomous vehicles can be integrated within the bridge in a way that does not interfere with pedestrians and cyclists. Working at multiple scales from 1:100 to 1:5000, the proposals should encompass a development strategy that is defined through specific architectural typologies, programmatic spaces and structural logics.

The output of this studio will culminate in an exhibition of a selected bridge proposal at the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism, starting September 2023. Throughout the semester, we will also have discussions with architects, planners and students from the region as part of the studio and biennale activities.