The Songdo International Business District is a city masterplanned on 1,500 acres of land reclaimed from the Yellow Sea on the west coast of Incheon.

New Songdo Central Park provides an urban oasis in the newly built district. Arup’s scope for the park design included a major seawater canal, footbridges, and making it resilient through rainwater harvesting and drainage.

We were also heavily involved in a number of additional aspects of the New Songdo City development, including a three-level underground parking garage and two footbridges spanning the canal.

A challenging canal design

The canal system required a highly creative, complex design process. In addition to the difficulties associated with building South Korea’s first seawater canal, the sheer scale of the waterway posed significant challenges.

With a host of intended functions for the canal, being a transport artery, offering waterfront development space, providing a natural cooling mechanism and becoming a biodiversity facilitator, meant that the project drivers of transport, sustainability, water quality and ecology, were often in conflict.
We brought our global expertise together. The resulting team included specialists in civil engineering, hydraulics, hydrology, maritime engineering, ecology, geotechnics, structural engineering, transport planning, bridge design, and MEICA (mechanical, electrical, instrumentation, control and automation).

Adding architectural interest to functional excellence

Two footbridges were designed by Arup – Mountain Strolling Garden Bridge and Park Path Bridge – to cross the canal. The architectural forms were developed to match the flow of the park and add to the masterplan vision, with the curvature of the bridges echoing the scalloped roof of the convention centre to the east. The tilted arch and deck profiles were kept low to maintain pedestrian visibility of the park, and structural arches extend from below to above the decks, providing walkers and cyclists with a constantly changing view as they cross the bridges.

We integrated sculpted light around the bridges' key features, forming a soft glow for pedestrians at night. The lighting scheme extends along the footpaths throughout the park.

Intelligent rainwater harvesting to conserve the water cycle

Our sustainable irrigation system responds intelligently to Korea's extreme weather patterns. In order to conserve water, underground storage elements capture approximately 190,700ft³ of rainwater falling within the site boundary during the wet summer months. This rainwater is then stored through the dry winters when water demand is low. In the spring, when temperatures rise, the water is used for irrigation.

We reduced irrigation demand as much as possible through a planting scheme that favoured species with low water needs, and their ability to thrive in a harsh environment was key to our landscaping selections.

In addition, to protect the landscaping from saline groundwater in the reclamation fill, we introduced a capillary break layer separating growing medium from the underlying reclamation fill.

Computational analysis for pure ventilation

Arup carried out a CFD (computational fluid dynamics) study to validate its mechanical ventilation system design for the parking garage. The results confirmed that the design would provide safe air.

Arup has worked closely with the university, the contractor and the NSIC team to finalize plans for filling, commissioning and operating the canal, providing a strong site presence during this period.

Working with local experts to achieve long-term sustainability

We engaged specialist local consultants with a thorough understanding of water quality and local ecology for the project, appointing a team from Hanyang University.   

At the end of the design phase, the client commissioned three studies by local university professors. The first study examined the prediction and management of potential ‘red tides’. The second focused on canal ecology, while the third explored biodiversity.

Arup used these academic findings to produce a canal ecology action plan that covered:

  • Monitoring, prediction and control of red tides
  • The potential for formal planting within the canal
  • Establishment and control of biodiversity
  • Potential sources and mitigation of pollution
  • A general planned maintenance program