Cities - Issue 113 - Magazine | Monocle

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Changing tide

south korea — development

This is what global commerce looks like from a dock in Busan, on South Korea’s southern coast: metal containers, towering cranes and ships bigger than a city block gliding past each other in the harbour. It’s a snapshot of the products and parts that pass through the country’s busiest container port on their way to and from Seoul, Shanghai, Seattle and beyond.

It’s also the view from Park Ho-chul’s office at the Busan Port Authority. As the head of port logistics, Park keeps everything running smoothly. At the moment he has another responsibility: giving the industrial waterfront a €7bn makeover. By 2030, Busan plans to turn a 3km stretch of its old industrial port into parks, walkways and a marina. There will be high-rise hotels and apartments, a water park, conference halls and an opera house by Oslo-based architecture firm Snøhetta.

The idea is to create a more liveable place for residents and a more attractive tourist destination. “More than 70 per cent of the land will be public space,” says Park. “The new opera house will be on an artificial island that we are making now.”

For centuries Busan’s port has been a magnet for money and commerce. And it still is: so many ships now pass through that the national government is funding an expansion of the new port to the west that opened just over a decade ago. Construction crews are at work on a 101-storey tower overlooking Haeundae beach and tourists are booking rooms at the Ananti Cove, a seaside resort with a members-only complex of penthouses that opened last summer. An art museum, designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, is also in the works. “I probably won’t be around when the redevelopment is completed but by then the city will be a very different place,” says Park.

Cut down to size

Vienna — Development

Vienna has a high-rise headache after a development proposal last year threatened its Unesco World Heritage status. The building’s designer, Brazilian architect Isay Weinfeld, says it will be “subtle”. Yet the tower is slated to reach 66 metres, exceeding Unesco’s 43-metre limit.

Now the Austrian government has stepped in: in February it gave a report to Unesco, promising to bring in international experts to assess the project but, tellingly, not mentioning its height. Unesco is unlikely to delist Vienna – but there is still a risk that it could.

Wild at heart

Portland, Oregon — Nature

Portland’s renowned urban-planning programme frequently draws delegations from other cities but now the Pacific Northwest centre is considering a different sort of visitor. A sweeping new plan includes expanding a network of wildlife habitat and migration corridors crisscrossing the city’s heart. “We’ve protected nature for a long time,” says city-planner Mindy Brooks, citing Portland’s parks, rivers and urban forests. “But we will become much denser so we need to do more to integrate nature as we go.”

Current plans sketch potential routes for animals and the 200 or so bird species that ply the Pacific coast. It creates a parallel transport system, stitched from parks, back gardens and street trees. While other urban areas around the world live alongside wildlife – boars in Berlin, bears in New Jersey – Portland is plotting a harmonious example of co-existence.

Bridge too far

Europe — Construction

Bridges connect but they can also divide. The proposed revival of the Strait of Messina Bridge project to connect Sicily and the mainland means that a battle that has been fought twice already this century may resume. Cost has been the main concern; environmental impact another. But they’re not the only obstacles; here are the region’s top three divisive bridges.

Strait of Messina Bridge
Sicilian urbanists thought they had seen off this unwanted link to the mainland but it was resurrected during this year’s election campaign.

Peljesac Bridge

Driving between Split and Dubrovnik in Croatia involves a trip to Bosnia, which is holding on to 20km of coastline that it gained in 1699. The EU has given Croatia funds to bypass the two border crossings but Bosnia has called the proposed span “an illegal and politically violent bridge”.

Bratoljub Bridge

This crossing from the Serbian town of Ljubovija to Bratunac in Bosnia has already been built – but no one has crossed. Disagreements between Bosnia’s border authorities and the country’s majority ethnic-Serb “entity” have left the bridge without immigration control. Ironically, its name means “brotherly love”.

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