It Has Everything a Global Park Aspires to Offer and More
By Kim Hyun-cheol
Many global cities have famous parks that are integral to their landscapes, whose names have become connected to the city. New York would be unthinkable without Central Park, while London and Paris wouldn't be complete without Hyde Park and Jardins du Luxembourg.
Those in New Songdo International City, the new city being built in Incheon, west of Seoul, hope that a newly completed park in that city will have a similar presence. Big celebrations marked its preliminary opening Tuesday.
The park was completed after three years of construction on a 200-billion-won ($163.7 million) budget, which is over three times the cost of a usual urban park. The expensive park is well suited to meet the highest expectations for a global city park, providing a place of respite for the residents and breathing room for the bustling city that Songdo aspires to be.
Significantly inspired by its namesake park in New York, the new park is a successful combination of eco-friendly technologies and traditional Korean beauty.
It will be opened to the public for the Friday kick-off of the Global Fair & Festival 2009 Incheon, will be the main venue for the event.
The park contains characteristics of the Korean terrain, such as a seawater canal representing Korean rivers flowing westward into the West Sea. As an eco-friendly place, the park has a rain-saving facility to save on water consumption, and also its parking lots are located underground in an attempt to minimize carbon emissions.
Songdo Central Park includes an aquarium, golf courses, international hospitals, preschools and a system of canals similar to that of Venice. The Songdo International Museum, located inside the park, will establish, preserve and document a permanent art collection.
Its ``ecotarium'' will feature various aquatic environments with scenic footbridges and promenades. The seawater canal, the water flow of which is powered by wind turbines and refreshed every 24 hours, will grace the landscape, and water taxis will provide leisure cruise rides around the park or transportation to Government Center.
The waterway, unlike typical canals, harnesses seawater to minimize damage to the ecosystem.
The seawater is transported through a 4-kilometer-long pipe from the western intake station, where it stores water from the West Sea during high tide, using tidal energy. The water is purified through a double filter without the use of chemicals.
``Songdo Central Park and its environment-friendly sea water canal will be presented to visitors from all over the world during the Global Fair & Festival," said Stanley C. Gale, the chairman of Gale International, co-developer of Songdo International Business District. ``Central Park will rival world-renowned waterside places to relax and is going to promote the image of Songdo International City."
The ceremony for the completion of the project was held Tuesday, and participants included Ahn Sang-soo, Incheon City Mayor and Lee Heon-seok, the authority commissioner of the Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ), along with Gale.
Guests of the ceremony are certain the park will become a landmark of the city.
``Songdo Central Park has attractions that can't be found anywhere else such as the seawater canal and canal cruise. No doubt, this park will be loved by residents of Incheon," Ahn said.
Also at the event, a launching ceremony was held for a canal cruise ship to be operated on the seawater canal. The 12-man Michuhol cruise ship is the nation's sole vessel that features a marine diesel engine meeting the standards of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
It also contributes to the prevention of seawater contamination and energy saving by applying solar power generation technology. Two cruises will be running in the canal, with an additional 25-seat cruise planned for introduction early next year.
The water taxi cruises to the IFEZ Arts Center, an art complex comprised of concert halls and an opera house, as well as supporting facilities such as art schools and an artists' village. Acclaimed conductor Chung Myung-whun participated in its design.
With the construction of Central Park, other facilities in New Songdo City are set to be launched one by one. Bordering the park, Songdo Conventia, a convention center, opened last October, and the 65-story North East Asia Trade Tower is under construction along with a new commercial complex and several new government offices to form the heart of the new city.
Located on a man-made island off the Incheon coast, about 65 kilometers west of Seoul, New Songdo City is a large-sized ``ubiquitous city'' being built in South Korea. In a ubiquitous city, all information systems including residences, businesses, medical services and governmental activity are interconnected through computers embedded in houses, streets and offices.
New Songdo, a free economic zone where English will be commonly used, is often referred as the largest private real-estate development in the world. When completed in 2014, the $25-billion project will be home to some 65,000 people and the workplaces of 300,000.