Heliomorphic Seoul

“The conception of form is ultimately the understanding of the forces that gave rise to it, as a representation of a form is a diagram of forces in equilibrium.” – Victor Olgyay, 1963

The Han River is a symbol of Korean civilization. It has been a vital source of water and agricultural production for thousands of years. Long ago, the city of Seoul was founded just north of the river. Today, the city extends well beyond the river, spurred by rapid industrialization and economic expansion. The industrialization of the river has led to massive ecological damage and loss of biodiversity along the Han.

Heliomorphic Seoul proposes an image of the city driven by bioproductivity. Landforms emerge from engineered ecological systems. Dispersed engineering structures redirect water flow, stabilize land, and accumulate soil. Synthetic ecologies introduce pondweeds and egrets, feed anchovies and weasels, and extend ranges for tiger butterflies and short-eared owls. Continuous erosion and deposition nurture dynamic ecological cycles.

Hangangcheolgyo (Han River Railroad Bridge) has connected the South Korean peninsula for over a century. Tunnels planned for the site promise to render the bridge redundant. Heliomorphic Seoul transforms Hangangcheolgyo into a vibrant, productive landscape, increasing biodiversity and establishing a platform for ecological connectivity.

Twelve residential towers traverse the river, absorbing water and solar energy. Heliomorphic Seoul proposes sustainable energy models for thermodynamic performance, including solar orientation, absorption, and reflection. Façade panels use biomass to filter air pollutants and support habitats in the sky. Fog-harvesting screens capture precipitation high over the city. Heliomorphic Seoul produces novel forms of bioproductivity, radically reimagining the city’s growth traversing the Han.

Project Team: Charles Waldheim, Jeffrey S. Nesbit, Aziz Barbar, Mingyu Kim, Xun Liu, Ciara Stein, and Seok Min Yeo.

Partners: Eric de Broche des Combes / Luxigon.