April 9 - June 29, 2013


The Cheonggyecheon River Project in Seoul

We are pleased to present the second exhibition in Van Alen’s series River City: Waterfront Design for Civic Life. Exploring the reinvention of a once-buried urban waterway, Deconstruction/Construction: The Cheonggyecheon River Project in Seoul examines this complex work of Korean infrastructure as a case study in how rivers can be reclaimed as thriving civic resources.

All but forgotten under the shadow of an elevated highway in the heart of Seoul, the Cheonggyecheon was transformed as a metropolitan-scale public space through an unprecedented effort of urban planning and design. Completed in 2005, the project re-made the river as the centerpiece of a 3.5-mile-long public park and the core of a multifaceted ecological, cultural, and economic redevelopment.

This exhibition, first presented at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, considers how the Cheonggyecheon’s renewal not only created a new ecological network in the center of the city, but also knit once-severed neighborhoods back together and catalyzed civic life through integrated architecture, landscape architecture, engineering, planning, and economic development.

We are excited to present this exhibition in our pop-up gallery space on Van Alen Institute’s ground-floor level. Please join us for the latest in our River City exhibition and program series exploring innovative waterfront design.

Van Alen Institute
30 West 22nd Street
Ground Floor (Enter through Van Alen Books)
New York, NY 10010
Exhibition Hours: Tuesday - Saturday, 11AM - 7PM


Convergent Flux

Contemporary Architecture and Urbanism in Korea


From “hermit kingdom” to international economic powerhouse, the small nation of South Korea has experienced vast cultural, societal, and urban shifts in the last century. Although this state of flux is symptomatic of many nations that have undergone rapid industrialization, the story of Korea is somehow more condensed, more marked by upheaval, and through its radical transformation, perhaps more able to emerge as a nexus of design culture.

Authors Jinhee Park and John Hong have examined Korea’s diverse work of the last decade through the lens of five conceptual streams: density, history, topography, materiality, and infrastructure. Please join them in conversation with Mark Rakatansky, Principal of Mark Rakatansky Studio and Adjunct Associate Professor at Columbia GSAPP, as they discuss a range of new and compelling work that has yet to be introduced to major media in the United States. Park and Hong’s 2012 book Convergent Flux: Contemporary Architecture and Urbanism in Korea is published by the Harvard GSD and Birkhäuser.


Peter G. Rowe

A City and its Stream: The Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project


Since it opened in 2005, the Cheonggyecheon River Project in Central Seoul has attracted millions of visitors annually and become a prominent aspect of the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s efforts to improve the quality of life for its citizens. Peter G. Rowe, the Raymond Garbe Professor of Architecture and Urban Design at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, presents his in-depth research on the interrelated historical factors, planning concerns, environmental effects, and impacts on property development that the restoration has catalyzed. This lecture, drawing on Professor Rowe’s publication A City and Its Stream: The Cheonggyecheon Restoration Project, will examine these profound transformations on the city’s urban conditions and future aspirations. He will be joined in conversation by Jinhee Park and John Hong.


Daylighting the Water

Design for Urban River Restoration


Van Alen Institute presents a special conversation on urban river restoration, exploring case studies of how buried waterways can be revealed for civic life. Participating panelists include the Boston-based landscape architect Mikyoung Kim (Mikyoung Kim Design), who designed a central segment of the Cheonggyecheon River’s reinvented public realm; William Kuhl (Saratoga Associates), who played a key role in daylighting the Saw Mill River in Yonkers, New York, a waterway tunneled underground in the 1920s and recently revived as a multifaceted civic amenity; and Gena Wirth (SCAPE / Landscape Architecture), whose firm’s competition-winning vision for Town Branch Commons in downtown Lexington, Kentucky uses local limestone geology as inspiration for a new public space network along the path of the city’s long-buried stream. Moderated by Justin G. Moore, Senior Urban Designer at the New York City Department of City Planning.

Please RSVP to rsvp@vanalen.org.


Film Screening

Lost Rivers


In nearly every industrial city around the world, rivers have been a defining feature of civic life. We built houses along their banks. Our roads hugged their curves. And their currents fed our mills and factories. But as cities grew, polluted rivers became conduits for disease and other urban ills, and—as we’ve explored in the case of Seoul’s Cheonggyecheon River—buried underground and merged with sewer networks.

The new documentary Lost Rivers retraces the history of these urban waterways by plunging into archival maps and going underground with clandestine urban explorers. In a film The Atlantic Cities called “mysterious, highly dramatic, and entirely compelling,” writer and director Caroline Bâcle takes a revelatory look into the disappearance and recent resurfacing of historic rivers. Venturing into vast underground museums of urban development, the film follows intrepid groups of subterranean scouts through hidden river networks including London’s River Tyburn, the Rivière Saint-Pierre in Montreal, Toronto’s Garrison Creek, and the Bova-Celato River in Brescia, Italy. Chronicling recent initiatives to resurface and revitalize once-forgotten waterways, including the Cheonggyecheon River in Seoul and the Saw Mill River in Yonkers, Lost Rivers draws on insights from visionary urban thinkers, activists, and artists around the world to bring to life new urban ecologies.

Lost Rivers - OFFICIAL TRAILER from Catbird Productions on Vimeo.

Producer Katarina Soukup of Montreal’s Catbird Films will join for a Q&A following the screening.

Please RSVP to rsvp@vanalen.org.