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Landscape's take on shifting what dams have to offer

'Is perceiving dams as a mere infrastructure enough in today's world?'

<<Masterplan for Landscape Remediation on Dam Environment>> is an ongoing effort to encompass a vast majority of major dams in South Korea under a single, unifying goal: to transform these rigorous, brutal infrastructures of the past into beacons proliferating sustainable lifestyle of the future. Through proposing reforestation, pedestrian-friendly planning, sustainable energy showcases and rainwater harvesting all the while giving dams a 'sense of place', this project openly tackles the superficial usage of infrastructural space as a mere recreational area sitting on top of the elephant in the room, unable to properly address the pros and cons to assess the deeper value within the site.

28 dams and their locations. Project site comprises of 28 dams across S.Korea, with over 2,354,000 sqm in area.

DAMS: a brief timeline

From a ground-breaking idol of the generation to a troublesome nuisance, this gigantic infrastructure – once conceived as a panacea to all problems – now represent an aggregation of indiscreet decision-making, where changing values and lifestyles of different generations collide.

On a path crossing stilling basin of Hapcheon Dam, Mar. 2021

This modern infrastructure gave it all at first: it was a single answer to a millennia-old problem of irrigation and flood control at a large scale, and a quick dose of adrenaline to a depression-stricken, unemployed ’30s. Watersheds and rivers were regarded as infrastructural opportunities, albeit the sheer defiance with nature it entailed. It was only several decades later that people started to look at what they had drowned under the lake, as environmental movement became active, leading to the removal of Elwha Dam a generation later, a milestone which has set the standard for many of the coming environmental policies in the U.S.

To South Korea – one of the world economy’s many followers that have been bench-marking pioneers – however, this newest notion of ‘environment first’ is still a far-fetched idea; dams, if not for their role in water security, are considered as recreational spaces, void of any environmental discourse, despite numerous recent occurrences of floods sweeping the nation almost every other year. Time has come where our current understanding of climate defies the infrastructural system we have established throughout 20th century.

From New Deal to COVID-19 and climate crisis of today, dams have undergone drastic changes in how they were perceived.

Hence the question: should dams continue to neglect the changing environment and only stay as their infrastructural selves, disregarding sustainability? What values do dams need to attain, in order for them to become something more than a gray infrastructure?

DAMNOGWON(DAM錄園): dams with 'environmental leadership'

The project features the brand Damnogwon ('Green Dam Garden') that aims to reevaluate dam environment and transform it into a destination that showcases the possibility of green-gray infrastructure. Knitting fragmented spaces around dams into an arboretum-like spatial sequence, Damnogwon not only focuses on sustainable usage of resources coming in and out of the park, but also exhibits various aspects of dams and surrounding areas into display, through spatial experience that entails both naturalistic and structural beauty of dam landscape, some of which are serene and sublime. The ironic and unique juxtaposition of nature and iconic infrastructure that only dams have seamlessly induces users to ponder upon what sustains contemporary urban lifestyle centered around material civilization, and what had been sacrificed in the process.

Project Masterplan for Landscape Remediation on Dam Environment

Location South Korea



Design Year

2020 ~ ongoing

advocacy & innovation by design

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