PATRICIA JOHANSONEcovention — Ulsan Park, Korea
Excerpts from the book ECOVENTION: CURRENT ART TO TRANSFORM ECOLOGIES, written by Sue Spaid. Published in conjunction with the exhibition Ecovention at the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, June 21 - August 18, 2002, co-curated by Sue Spaid, Contemporary Arts Center and Amy Lipton, Ecoartspace.

Republished with permission. © Sue Spaid 2002
e c o v e n t i o n


The Contemporary Arts Center



Ulsan Park combines ecological restoration with art, culture, public infrastructure, recreation, and education. The challenge for this 912-acre site in Korea's leading industrial city was to create an island of sustainable nature while serving the needs of a million people. The Ulsan Park program required museums, playgrounds, shuttle-buses, and an Imax Theater, so my design needed to interweave major structures with restored ecosystems marsh, pond, intermittent creek, floodplain, meadows, upland forest using "art" to access and interpret nature. Because Koreans traditionally loved and worshipped nature, images for my design are based on animals, fish, and insects from Korea's myths, "Minhwa" folk tales, and living landscape. Thus cultural history is linked to ecological restorations within Ulsan Park, protecting and transmitting genetic information to the future.

One example: "Tiger Tail Plaza" surrounds a former concrete reservoir framed by skyscrapers. The engineering has been reconfigured to become a major wildlife area, with native vegetation as food and habitat for waterfowl, fish, and amphibians. The "reservoir" now reconnects to its natural drainage wet meadow and cattail marsh and tiger-stripe paths allow visitors to journey through shrubs, bulrushes, and marsh plants to open water where nesting-islands, waterfowl, and muskrats are seen. Tiger-paths move into a reforested valley, up the slopes of a mountain, and through a restored pine grove each filled with sculptural park-features and living communities.

A "Tiger-Paw" spillway incorporating bridge, seating, "Tiger-Claw" climbing structure, and ponds for flood control reconnects the renewed "reservoir" to its natural flow a stream cascading off the mountain and remnant floodplain. My educational program stresses the message of each animal here, the beloved tiger is extinct in Korea due to deforestation and habitat loss.

Reservoir Site
Ulsan City presses close to the edge of the concrete reservoir, where marsh vegetation will help clean the water by filtering out detritus.

Minwha Tiger
In rural Korea, Tiger and Dragon paintings were often hung on the front gate to protect the home. But tigers are also presented in children's stories as clumsy, gullible, loveable beasts.

Tiger Tail Plaza

TIGER-TAIL PLAZA forms the northern entrance to Ulsan Park. Tiger-stripe paths convey visitors from the wide urban promenade into both wetland and forest habitats. A tiger paw spillway connects the former concrete reservoir — now transformed into a living pond — with a "wetland valley" and remnant floodplain. The tiger paw incorporates a pedestrian bridge over the top of the weir, as well as a series of spillway steps that will pond water during floods, and become sitting steps at low-flow. Tiger claws serve as rugged climbing path from the wetland up to a seating area under a preserved pine grove.

Site Plan © Patricia Johanson 1996

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