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We always long for home. Even when we are outside working, we yearn for our cosy place at home. More so when we are away from home. Our 'house' is not just a physical structure, but rather a very complex architecture that contain people, stories, and warmth. It is a space fused of abstract and specific.
When opened an office Twenty years ago, I sat in front of a desk, empty except paper, pencils and watercolor. Then I began to paint houses. I didn't paint houses for someone, but I painted houses that I had seen. These were images of old houses in Yangdong Village, and other common houses scattered in my neighborhood. The houses I especially liked to paint were just common neighborhood houses in the country running along the national road, with no architect attached. The house had no style to boast. While painting these houses blooming like wild flowers on the side of the road, I reflected the meaning of the house continuously. Houses without pretense that loosened tension in life, were these plain houses, and by extension, these were houses that entered the condition of idleness. An ideal house would be a serene space, like a everyday wear that has been worn for a long time.
People lead their own life. Because no one can live other’s life. Also, a house and its space should reflect the resident’s life, as if it were wearing clothes that fit oneself. However, such self-evident facts are not easy to achieve in reality.
How would we design a house that reflect and take after the resident?
One day, a mountain loving couple visited our office to build a house. There are many who like mountains, but few are willing to live next to a mountain. Their stories suggested that their lives are very simple and frugal. But their land for the house was splendid, almost grand.
The land was in the middle of Sobaek Mountain, a hill away from Buseok Temple. The mountains before and behind were interspersed with layers of mountains, and within them was the land which rose like a splendid flower. It was a distance away from the village and originally had been an apple orchard. The program requested was simple, place for sleeping, eating and drinking tea, and the daily life was filled with hiking, or just being in the nature.
Architects listen to the various desires that people bring and work to make a house by unraveling the intricate threads. But there was not much desire in this house, and it was just simplicity itself. With our usual sense of sorting and rearranging the diverse needs of the residents to create space, it was difficult to get through these simple programs.
We designed a long rectangle, with the main room and guest room placed at both ends and the kitchen and living room placed side by side, finished by placing the bathroom. To the south, we inserted windows that could hold sunlight and wind, and added long corridors that could control the light. For the tea room, which is usually used as a sitting room, we provided a low window. Consequently, the house allows diverse views of the surrounding mountains depending on movement, location and sitting/standing.
For the rest of design, we had to establish relationship with the mountains that lay side to side. Beside a flat, simple house, we designed a yard with a mountain stream ahead of it, and a small gate facing the house. The gate house serves as a storage to stock miscellaneous tools needed for farming and to create an empty space between the road and the house.
We placed the house as if putting two simple stones on a go board. When we finished building, it was as comfortable as the country houses I had painted for a long time, and the mountains hugged house so much so that it felt warmer. Homeowners who want to lead simple lives were glad it showed their identity.
It is a house that resembles the master who wanted to live in the high and deep mountains without pretense. The house was designed by us with the clients, but the work of blending the mountains and the life afterwards is left as their share in future.
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