New Songdo City Central Park and Canal

  • 101-acre park for a new city built on reclaimed land.
  • South Korea’s first seawater canal.
  •  Collaborative effort coordinating the work of more than 10 Arup offices worldwide.

Central Park provides a multifunctional oasis for the Songdo International Business District, a new city built on 1,500 acres of land reclaimed from the Yellow Sea.

Arup’s scope for the park included a major seawater canal; a remediation strategy to provide a plantable landscape on a platform of sea-dredged soils; sustainable irrigation via rainwater harvesting; pavement analysis; drainage, utility, and lighting design; a three-level underground parking garage; and two footbridges spanning the canal.

We have also been heavily involved in a number of additional aspects of the New Songdo City development.

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 of its own.

In addition, the multiple intended functions of the canal – transport artery; waterfront development space; natural cooling mechanism; biodiversity facilitator – involved often-conflicting drivers such as transport, sustainability, and water quality and ecology.
We searched throughout the firm's global offices to bring together the individuals with the most relevant experience. The resulting group 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

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

We sculpted light around the bridges' key features to form a soft glow for pedestrian movement at night. The lighting scheme continues along the footpaths throughout the park.

Rainwater harvesting

Our sustainable irrigation system responds intelligently to Korea's extreme weather patterns in order to conserve water.

Underground storage elements can capture approximately 190,700ft³ of rainwater falling within the site boundary during the wet summer months. Rainwater is stored through the dry winter, 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 favored species with low water needs. The ability to thrive in a harsh environment was also key to landscaping selections.

Land remediation strategy

To protect the landscaping from saline groundwater in the reclamation fill, Arup introduced a capillary break layer separating growing medium from the underlying reclamation fill.

Computational analysis

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.


  • Aerial view of New Songdo City Central Park showing surrounding city. Credit Esch Fotografie and Gale International KoreaOpen gallery

    South Korea's New Songdo City was built on land reclaimed from the Yellow Sea.

  • Canal with highrise buildings in the background. Credit HG Esch Fotografie / Gale International Korea.Open gallery

    The canal serves multiple functions, including transport, recreation, and natural cooling.