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.


Exhibition Party

Immensity + Intimacy: Brooklyn Bridge Park


Join us for a festive evening with representatives from Brooklyn Bridge Park’s design team at Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, as well as riverfront advocates and the broader Van Alen community to celebrate the first exhibition in the River City series.


The Urban Polder:

What New York’s Waterfront Can Learn
from the Dutch


As it faces a changing climate, the Netherlands is undergoing an “extreme makeover”: the country that fashioned its landscape so distinctly to keep water out is now adjusting its centuries-old strategy of self-defense: it is letting the water back in. This new Dutch relationship to water holds critical lessons for New York as it prepares more than 500 miles of metropolitan waterfront for an ever wetter future. Author and journalist Tracy Metz shares research from her new volume Sweet & Salt: Water and the Dutch, followed by a discussion with panelists Susannah Drake (dlandstudio), Klaus Jacob (Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory), Michael Marrella (New York City Department of City Planning), and moderator James S. Russell (Bloomberg News and The Agile City) on strategies for living in harmony with water, and what New York City could learn from Dutch techniques. Join us for a special reception following the program.

This program is presented with The Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York. It is part of Archtober, NYC’s month-long festival of architecture activities, programs, and exhibitions.


Redefining the River:

Challenges in Urban Waterfront Design


Join Alex Washburn of the New York City Department of City Planning as he leads a discussion on the challenges of integrating design into New York’s most complex landscape: the waterfront. Participants include Regina Myer of Brooklyn Bridge Park; Matthew Urbanski of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates; Jonathan Marvel of Rogers Marvel Architects; Claire Weisz of WXY Architecture + Urban Design; Roland Lewis of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance; and Michael Fishman of Stantec.