The Korea Herald


[Weekender] Green rooftops brighten Seoul skyline

By KH디지털2

Published : June 3, 2016 - 16:51

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Seo Jin-kyung, 33, frequently visits Seoul Library’s Sky Yard, a rooftop garden located by the cafe on the fifth floor, where the panoramic view of the country’s capital city refreshes her.

Upon opening the glass door at one side of the cafe, a green space filled with various types of hibiscus syriacus – the national flower of South Korea –- and wooden benches under a blue sky welcome visitors.

“I tend to relax with a cup of tea or talk on the phone here when I study at Seoul Library. I think it was a clever idea to install a rooftop garden in the middle of the hectic district,” said Seo, who is studying for the civil service exam.

Seoul Library’s Sky Yard, established in 2012, is one of some 680 rooftop gardens in Seoul created under Seoul Metropolitan Government’s “Rooftop Greening Project.” 

Seoul Library's Sky Yard (Kim Da-sol/The Korea Herald) Seoul Library's Sky Yard (Kim Da-sol/The Korea Herald)

In 2002, SMG kicked off the project to build more rooftop gardens in public and private buildings in order to provide citizens with a greener living environment which also minimizes heat, thereby conserving energy.

“Seoul lacks green space and we intend to create more rooftop gardens in Seoul that citizens can freely visit,” an official from Seoul City’s Landscape Architecture department told The Korea Herald.

Cooling effect

For more than a decade, Seoul City had provided private building owners who wished to build rooftop gardens with funds to cover up to 50 percent of building and maintenance costs.

However, this was abruptly halted in 2014, due to a budget cut and limited access to private buildings by citizens. The project has now been revamped to facilitate more rooftop gardens in public buildings.

“We are now focusing on helping public buildings such as court and police buildings with the cost of installing and operating rooftop gardens, so that more people can freely walk in (to visit them),” an official added.

Dongguk University's Haneul Maru Park (Kim Da-sol/The Korea Herald) Dongguk University's Haneul Maru Park (Kim Da-sol/The Korea Herald)

Rooftop gardens also benefit the environment. According to Dream Forest’s administration office under Seoul City, the interiors of buildings with green rooftops are cooler during summer, as the rooftop green spaces help protect the buildings from strong sunrays. A 2010 research by Dongguk University showed average savings of 18,168 won ($15) per year on air conditioning and heating costs in 204 buildings with green rooftops in Seoul.

Place for respite

Baeksong Sky Park at the Constitutional Court of Korea is a rooftop garden frequented by workers in the predominantly office area of Jongno-gu. The 600 -year-old baeksong, or lacebark pine tree, along with a variety of shrubs and flowers, are the main attractions here.

“Baeksong Sky Park is always the most popular place in the building,” said a security staff manning the Constitutional Court of Korea gate.

“Workers say they enjoy going up to the rooftop after lunch or during breaks and it feels like a getaway from the forest of buildings,” he added.

Haneul Maru Park in Dongguk University, Seoul, created in 2008, is a very popular spot on campus with swarms of students spending time here between classes. Along with benches and tables located by the garden on the rooftop of Hyehwa Building, there is a cafe where students can enjoy coffee and snacks at low prices.

“My senior brought me here when I was a freshman. Since then, I have been coming here to relax or work on assignments enjoying the warm breeze,” said Kim Min-jeong, an international studies major.

“When I want to enjoy a nice view of Seoul’s skyline, I just come up here. I also heard that couples come here for the nighttime view of Seoul, which I hear is similar to that from Namsan Mountain,” said another freshman student surnamed Lee.

By Kim Da-sol (