Asian Urban Places, pp. 7-15
Heng Chye Kiang, Oscar Carracedo García-Villalba and Zhang Ye (eds.)
School of Design and Environment, National University of Singapore | Singapore | 2014 | ISBN 978-981-09-3687-7
Provision of urban parks is considered to be an important instrument, which helps addressing social and territorial cohesion in global cities. Yet local governments strive to create new investment opportunities for global capital and provide spectacle for expanding tourism and cultural industries, which often makes urban parks into an instrument of competition between global cities rather than an effective approach, dealing with their social and environmental problems. Speculative urban development considers urban parks merely as an economic asset, which can be stripped off their social meanings, and turned into a commodity that can easily be marketed and consumed.
The paper compares Cheonggyecheon Restoration in Seoul and Diagonal Mar Park in Barcelona to explore the changing social role of urban parks as urban commons and meaningful communal space in global cities. Cheonggyecheon is a large urban park in the downtown Seoul, constructed after the Cheonggye Expressway was demolished and an ancient stream was recovered on its place. It quickly became a popular public space and a new tourist attraction in Seoul. Diagonal Mar Park, constructed on a former industrial site in Barcelona, is less centrally located and is one among many urban parks in the city. Although the two parks seem to have little in common at first sight, the paper argues that the instrumentalisation of Cheonggyecheon and Diagonal Mar Park, in order to improve economic competitiveness and global appeal in Seoul and Barcelona, has negatively affected their social role in a similar way.