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Uijeongbu's New Culture Street

My fingers are feeling better compared to yesterday and I still want to write about the changes to downtown Uijeongbu's Jungangno (중앙로) but I have no idea where to begin. Back in May the city ruled the street off-limits to cars, and I made a brief reference to construction going on back in August. While remodeling work conducted at Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul resulted in the removal of 29 ginkgo trees - placed elsewhere in the capital - Uijeongbu's city planners actually tore out the street and replaced it with 64 trees that tower 20m above street level. The new flora is Pinus densiflora for. erecta, which is known as 금강송 in Korean and the Japanese Red Pine in English.

Japanese Red Pines. Photos from over the summer.

An article in the Hankooki mentions that these pines are between 80-100 years old but I haven't been able to track down where they were located before being moved to central Uijeongbu. Their new home sees them placed within elevated areas running down the length of the street - formerly Jungangno and now rebranded as Haengbokno (행복로; Happiness Street) and 'Culture Street' (문화의 거리) - and paths have been constructed to run between the trees. Telephone lines and wiring have also been removed from the space above the street to make the whole area look much less cluttered than before. Of course, if a path through the trees wasn't enough for you there is also a creek that meanders through the same strip of forest - sometimes visible from the path and sometimes cutting underneath it - which is lit up by various-colored lights at night. Carp will also be introduced once the temperature gets warmer.

Ice forming in a pond at the end of a forested section. Photo from last weekend

The city's 9.8 billion won budget also included adding a number of statuary and art pieces to the street; there are two statues showing a couple leaning in to exchange a kiss, one highlights Korean leapfrog, and near the center of the street is a metallic structure set up to reflect light and just generally look cool. (Does artwork need another reason to exist?) As if that weren't enough though, the 문화의 거리 entrance located closest to Uijeongbu Station - accessible via exits 11 and 12 of the underground shopping center (의정부 지하상가) - is marked by a water fountain fed by a cascading waterfall that shoots colored jets of water (red, orange, green, blue, violet) into the air. However, unlike the fountains at Gwanghwamun Square, the one in Uijeongbu is situated within a pool, so you won't catch any kids running through the plumes.

The southern fountain

Adjacent to the fountain are a series of media poles that can be programmed to flash any number of messages. At the moment they have a winter theme and wish pedestrians a happy holiday season; I'm looking forward to seeing what other messages they'll display. As you can see in this photo the media poles were operational but still in a construction zone as recently as 5 December. In the same area are a collection of lit sidewalk tiles; stepping on them with the right amount of pressure will make the lights change color. Over the past week I've seen groups of people stop in awe at the changing lights and start jumping up and down with glee as the cycle progresses through its various hues. Nothing like watching a group of very serious-looking individuals break out laughing as they stomp down as hard as they can on the special tiles.

Also, if you look closely enough you can make out a crowd of people in the background of that last link -- a gathering who came to watch a pair of college-aged guys who had set up shop next to the statues. One was on acoustic guitar and sang while the other handled rhythm with a djembe drum. Nice to see that the street's musical legacy will carry on.

Fountain, lit pathway, and more water spraying upwards

However, it's in the next segment of street that the landscape really gets interesting. Once you walk past the fountains and media poles, wander through the Japanese Red Pines, and check out a statue or three along the way, you come to a structure that kutay described as similar to a "Wellsian Martian spaceship":

The above is a new LED structure that the city installed near the center of 'Culture Street' and which is capable of playing through a series of clips similar to the media poles mentioned above -- although obviously on a much larger scale. As the Chosun Ilbo reported last week, individuals even have the option of using the LED structure for personal messages. Their example is "철수는 영희를 사랑한다" (Cheolsu loves Young Hee) and the article goes on to add that it will be available for residents to send wedding proposals and other special announcements, presumably for a cost. When I was taking photos last week the video images rotated between a series of "Happy Holidays" messages with snowflakes and Christmas tree ornaments, a view of the universe and constellations, and what you can see above -- an astronaut floating out in space. It should be a great place to spend a warm spring evening.

Following the LED display is a collection of 'light sticks' (for lack of a better descriptive term) that lead to a depression in the walkway which looks like it will later be filled with water to create a second meandering stream. The boxy shape in the center of the above photo will likely serve as a reservoir for the stream water. It's recessed into the ground even more than the stream bed, which seems ideal for circulating water through the system. A second box-shape is located at the north end of the street and appears to be where the aqueduct ends. Finally, capping off the Uijeongbu's new 'Culture Street' is a second fountain -- this time with water erupting from directly out of the ground.

The northern fountain

The temperature was hovering around freezing while I was out that evening, but that didn't stop a few couples from making a mad dash through the fountain. As with the southern fountain the lighting changes colors at both the spouts and along the lighting strips set into the ground. The toadstool-shaped seats are also a nice addition and will no doubt see a fair bit of use. Just beyond the fountain is a section of elevated track for the Uijeongbu LRT -- the city's upcoming light rail system that I profiled in an earlier entry. The Chosun Ilbo article cited above mentions that the city will hold a celebration together with local residents on 24 December - Christmas Eve - to commemorate Jungangno's transformation and mark the 'official' opening of the 'new' street.

의정부시는 오는 24일 크리스마스 이브에 시민들과 함께 중앙로의 변신을 축하하는 개장식을 가질 예정이다

LED & bike, Christmas tree display, and the 'Millennium Obelisk'

For anyone in Uijeongbu that evening and looking for something to do on Christmas Eve -- you could do a lot worse than checking out events at the new 'Culture Street'. For those interested in more photos I would recommend browsing through the two entries from 연인들의 마음의쉼터 located here and here. Here's one sample from the second page:


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 23rd, 2009 03:13 pm (UTC)
I love the photos.

How did they manage to transplant trees so tall without damaging them or killing them? I'm surprised it didn't stress them out enough that they died after being planted.

Did they create the creek or is that natural?

I wish all cities were planned this way. It's awesome! I'd love to walk along streets that had tall trees, a creek, and other natural elements.
Dec. 23rd, 2009 04:42 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Stephie.

I came across a couple of articles that mention the trees, but they either didn't say where they came from and how they were transplanted or my Korean wasn't good enough to pick up on that information. I wonder how far the city will let their branches grow out. It would be nice to have the extra foliage, but I can understand businesses worrying about stray branches causing damage to storefronts.

It looks like an artificial creek, though there is a natural stream that runs about six or seven blocks away. (My apartment is one block away from the stream.)

I love that the city made an effort to create a greener public space. There are also plans to turn a couple of the old US Army bases into parks now that most US soldiers have been relocated out of the city. I also live two metro stops away from a national park!
Dec. 23rd, 2009 03:16 pm (UTC)
Looks like a nice street. Especially like the picture of ice forming.
Dec. 23rd, 2009 04:47 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Brian. I took a few photos of the ice highlighted by different colors but couldn't think of a good excuse to include more than one with the entry. Oh well.
Dec. 23rd, 2009 03:47 pm (UTC)
great writeup and pics! i can't wait to go see it all finished. will you put this post up on the uijeongbu crew group? people need to see!
Dec. 23rd, 2009 04:58 pm (UTC)
Re: wow!
Thanks, Breda! I just added it to the Uijeongbu Crew group a little bit ago. I hope that's still enough time for people to read about it before the celebration tomorrow!
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )