There are a number of reasons why some public spaces get left behind in the midst of development and progress, like: illegal dumping, restrictive access, severe restrictions on zoning, lack of funding, lack of interest, etc. The project location had all of these challenges—and more.
The Yulha River is a narrow waterway that cuts between a mountainside village and a major highway alongside a bustling city. With an international airport and military air base nearby, the neighboring residential area faced heavy restrictions on zoning, which is unattractive for investors. Also, being effectively cut-off from the rest of the city with a low mountain to the west and a major highway to the east, the area was somewhat forgotten and left behind compared to the sprawling industrial and residential developments just across the river.
Recently, however, a 250-meter-long section of the Yulha River was designated to receive public funding for improvements that would create a usable and welcoming place for residents of the surrounding area. The design team’s job was to design a cultural space that would attract more residents to use the space and care for it enough to prevent it from becoming a slum of illegal dumping and vagrants.
The YiEUM Partners team focused on creating a cultural space for children that would also draw attention to the area so that illegal activities such as dumping and drinking in public would be discouraged organically due to an increase in use. To encourage residents to visit and spend time along the river on a regular basis, they began by naming the project area “Yulha Art Lounge.”
By using the word lounge in the name, they hoped to create a sense that the space could become a place to spend time, rather than overlook. Because they were focused on creating a space for children, the 250-meter-long portion of the “lounge” is called the “Yulha Play Zone.” This was then further divided into three different sections—River-walk, Happy Road and Yulha Fun—to create a sense of variety and storytelling.
River-walk implements graphics inspired from the scenery along the river in order to draw a strong connection to the physical space. Happy Road uses graphics that were generated from actual samples of scenery from their neighborhood, collaged and superimposed to create playful and visually stimulating imagery with a hint of familiarity. Yulha Fun contains graphics based on historically significant toys and games their parents and grandparents played as children, to encourage curiosity and opportunities for guardians to teach children in this digital age how to have fun without digital devices. Further, the team integrated furniture, playground equipment and even a playhouse into the graphic design to encourage interaction with the graphic art in a tangible way.
Working in a densely populated community, word of the project spread quickly throughout the neighborhood. Residents were more than ecstatic to see the riverside trail cleaned up and become a place where they could feel safe and welcome to visit.
"A wonderful integration of two and three-dimensional designs. This project is an excellent example of successful neighborhood improvements to a drab area through experiential graphics."
"Pure environmental graphic at its finest. Here we see the power graphic design has to activate public space and promote stewardship. Let’s go play!"
"This is quintessential EGD. It harnesses the power that EGD has to positively transform a previously anonymous place into a vibrant and joyful civic environment. The bold and colorful graphics provide great variety through an application of complex patterning but never fall apart as a coherent whole."
Jangwon Ahn (principal in charge); Heejoung Yoon (project director); Nara Son, Sungwoong Cho (designers)
Jangeun Jo, Hyongnam Ahn (artists)
JID: Wanjun Kim (chief construction director), Doho Son (construction director), Eunjoo Kim (construction manager), Jieun Lee (senior designer), Hyojeong Kim (junior designer)