Secret Garden Playscape, Olson Kundig and Do-Ho Suh, Uijeongbu, South Korea, 2012

The rise of the suburban shopping mall seems to have doomed the department store rooftop playground in the United States but it lives on in Asia, where  Alan Maskin of Olson Kundig Architects and Korean artist Do-Ho Suh have created a  something more that just a children’s play space; a ‘secret park’ on the rooftop of the Shinsegae store in Uijeongbu, South Korea.

They consider  the garden “a prototype for how cities might grow in the future, turning the tops of buildings into public spaces and parks”, and its goal was to create a distinctive outdoor space for the entire family.

“At the heart of the experience is a series of “outdoor rooms”—a tree house, maze garden, mist room, archaeological dig, bird’s nest, and elephant fountain. With sculptures by Suh and mechanical animals fabricated by local art students and craftspeople, the spaces in the garden were designed for discovery.

Some of the garden’s content was inspired by traditional Korean tapestries depicting a magical garden that contains several traditional symbols of longevity such as cranes, deer, mist, water, and pine trees. A prominent feature of the garden is the presence of many sotdae—carved wooden birds sitting upon wooden totems that were historically used to ward off evil spirits. These elements, along with the inclusion of regional plants, were the direct result of extensive research into the local culture and site conditions.

Maskin describes the project as being designed “in totality” with architects, builders, artists, botanists, landscapers, and fabricators specializing in water play and mist, all coming together in a synergistic manner.”   A local mother who visits the garden three times a week says, “Before this garden, Uijeongbu had no clean and safe places to spend time with children.” It has become part of the daily routine for many families.

[via metropolismag, see also a black and white photo essay of the playground by Trevor Marczylo]

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