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YeonHui-Dong is a village where has been a living area for conservative upper-middle class from the late sixties. It settled on a slow slope from northwestern long and low hillside. The front garden of each houses are leveled up one floor higher than the front street. A block is composed with six or eight lots each of them are about 330m2.

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In Korea, people dream about having a large garden at the front of the house. YeonHui-Dong’s overall village layout is the clearest evidence of this desire. In consequence, most of the houses have neighboring houses on three sides with 2 meters wide outdoor corridors with a low wall in the middle. This typical arrangement has determined the homogeneous shape of the village.

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My client had four children of 1,3,5,7 years old when came to me to ask the commission and now the children became 3,5,7,9 years old. He is a successful business man over 40. He wanted to give a room to each child and his own private room safe from children to stay quite sometimes because after the completion of house he was supposed to spend more time to work from home.

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On my first visit to the site, I strongly felt the decades old stubborn positioning problem. So I decided to give a cross shape plan having four different yards of different roles each. Then unexpected distant views appeared and nearing old gardens were opened. Narrow and useless outdoor corridor in between buildings disappeared.

Positioning the kitchen between two lager yards permitted easy supervising of children playing in both yards expanding visual spaciousness of kitchen. On the long and thin yard I put the stair to approach to the entrance. To the last cozy yard I shared a hidden room for the client. Opened to four diagonal ends, the layout brought me a new problem. How to deal with the periphery.

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On three sides facing neighboring houses, there were low walls of slightly different heights around 1.2m. 1.8m’s height was good to cover the walls and to keep the privacy. As material I chose metal wire mesh of 4 cm grid. Easily rusting nature of metal wire-mesh and its transparency seemed good if Mr. Kim would agree to the rust metal for his fence .

He agreed. People were stupefied of how Mr. Kim accepted with such an easiness. On the building sides of facing fences, instead, I used 4cm wide thin metal plate with 4cm distance. This row of metal plates must show and hide the concrete structure of house. The height must match to that of fence. For the underground level facing the street, I showed the concrete structure of the building.

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Having neighbors so close, to guarantee a privacy of bedrooms the volume of the second floor must have been closed. Pitched roof gives spaciousness to the closed volume reminding other roofs of village and of distant hill. Two top lights are soaring up to the sky keeping inclinations of the roof. They are not so visible from outside but are dramatic from inside. Seen from above, they adds a subtle skyline to the village.

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I wanted use material which has paradoxical quality of differentiating and harmonizing for the second floor. The copper material which is different from other two metal materials used in ground floor, it’s clear cut finishing with light reflecting surface will fade very slowly in time matching to the red bricks of adjacent houses.

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Lastly the roof is enveloped with black asphalt sheet. This is to high light the hidden concrete structure visible on the street level but hides the structure on the first floor. I used three different kinds of metals in this house hoping that each one with precise role. Three different time of ripe , thus three different way of answering to the context being honest to its nature.

Written by Jean Son

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Architects : ISON Architects Location : Seoul, South Korea Design Team : Jean Son, Lee byung chul Construction : C&O ENC Area : 331.0 sqm Project Year : 2014 Photographs : JongHo Kim

ISON ARCHITECTS last 18 years since 1997, founded by I Min and Son Jin, studied and worked in Italy. ISON focused on the meaning and potentialities of urban context that small building remains, through series of kindergarten projects in early days. Outcomes were recognized and the studio won the Kim Swoo Geun Prize in 2008.

ISON Architects

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Polygonal Jars, 2017 30 × 22 × 22 cm, Porcelain and celadon glazed

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Polygonal Jars, 2017 Porcelain and celadon glazed

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Polygonal Jars, 2015 Porcelain and celadon glazed

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Polygonal Jars, 2014 Porcelain and celadon glazed

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Polygonal Jars, 2013 Porcelain and celadon glazed

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Polygonal cylinder, 2016 Porcelain and celadon glazed

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Polygonal bottle and cup, 2015 11.5 x 11.5 x 24 cm, Porcelain and celadon glazed

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Polygonal bottle and cup, 2015 Porcelain and celadon glazed

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Polygonal bottle and cup, 2017 Porcelain and celadon glazed

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Located in a calm low mountainside overlooking the Bugaksan Mountain, the site reflects both the patina and generic modernity of Gwangwhamun, the historic center in Seoul. The client, a retiring professor, and honorable scholar decided to demolish the deteriorating old house and build a new memorable home for post-retirement years.

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It was not an easy decision for the client to demolish the 50-year-old house, built by her own father. The old house accrued character as a peaceful shelter and joyful childhood playground. After years of hesitation, the client decided to tear down the structurally defective house. After three days of demolition, the remains of the wood flooring, window lattice work, and door plates were transferred to the client to preserve those embedded memories.

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A few plan sketches were provided by the client at the start of the commission. The naïve unprofessional drawings, out of scale with distorted proportions, represented the subtle yet detailed thoughts about a new home filled with the nostalgia of the old house. A house is not a space for an architect’s egoistic expression, but a place for commemorating yesterday, living the present, and dreaming of tomorrow. Thus, the architect’s role seemed to impose an order on the client’s drawings with respect and honor.

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The nine-square grid, 3 kahn x 3 kahn in East Asia, has been a fundamental typology in architecture, both traditional and modern. The part of the Cheongun Residence was structured as nine-square grid in its spatial conception with symmetry and centricity. Conceptualized as modest but abstract ideal space, the nine-square grid diagram was developed into a concrete spatial structure with programs and functions.

Cheongun Residence is planned to function both as private residence and as research institute. The parlor at the core of the nine-square grid integrates programmatic functionality with spatial spirituality. The void of the parlor continues through the mezzanine of second floor to arrive at the light well of the roof, imbuing warm natural light and tranquil air deep into the center of the residence.

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The nine-square grid was applied horizontally in plan and vertically in section as regulating geometry. The void space at the core centers an axis that compresses the public realm into the center while disseminating private space to the periphery. The spatial density is maintained in equilibrium by this centralized organization, both centripetal and centrifugal.

The parlor between the kitchen area and the guest room on the ground floor maintains the balance between servant and served space. The circulation from the foyer to the rooftop tearoom occurs through the central void space, to generate rhythmic sequences compressing and releasing spatial tensions.

The void on the second floor mediates between personal life and scholarly life via the symmetrical order between the master bedroom and library. The light well on the third floor is situated at the concentric center of tearoom, the centroid of the third floor plan. This tea room has a concentric square geometry in plan and section that becomes the spatial, iconographic centricity of the house. The compression of the space by the solid light well tube harmonizes with the spatial release through the horizontal windows.

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For a scholar dedicated to education and research, centralized organization of the house represents the essentiality and directionality of life. Concrete, calm, and enduring patina materials were selected for the central structure. Brick becomes the counterpart for the exterior cladding, balancing the tranquility with warm vitality and subtle rhythms. Recycled bricks were used as wall cladding for the exterior walls, conservatory area, and veranda to mediate the transition between exterior and interior

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To deal with the spiritual aspect of materiality, the arch was chosen as the conceptual and structural technique. An arch in a form of a vault guides visitors through the foyer to the parlor. At the central void of parlor and living room, two consecutive arches add a series of filters to maintain a temperate and calm atmosphere. Arches of the living room, conservatory, and veranda frame the garden landscape and protect the central space from the harsh weather. The Cheongun Residence is located in the most historic district of Seoul, which involves the paradoxical coexistence of traditional, colonial, and contemporary architectural scenes. An arch may be the metaphoric interpretation of coexistence, preserving collective memories of the neighborhood’s patinated materiality

The frontality of the Cheongun Residence arises from the centralized organization, symmetric order, and contextual relationships of the house. The north wall of the house, perceived as podium, includes the rhythmic and symmetrical placement of a canopied porch and two vehicle entrances. The symmetricity becomes obvious at the receded north elevation, with a central axis between the main entrance and the arch window of the staircase on top. The south elevation facing the main garden has a semi-symmetrical order with a series of arch windows. The frontality and symmetricity of the house is a clear manifestation of the centralized organization and proportioned programs, ultimately resulting in a state of tranquil equilibrium harmonizing the complexities and contradictions inherent in life.

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Architects : Hyundai Kim, Tectonics Lab Location : Cheongun-dong, South Korea Architect in Charge : Hyundai Kim (Ewha Womans University) Design Team : Sukyung Kim, Dasom Kim Area : 313.1 m2 Project Year : 2017 Photographs : Kyungsub Shin Manufacturers : Eagon, Alto, Sehwa Brick Structural Engineer : Millennium Structure General Contractor : Nature and Environment Inc.

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Tectonics Lab pursues a transdisplinary, integral approach to architecture and urbanism. Our research-based methodology embraces practice with theory, materialization with philosophy, and conceptualization with sensibility. Our work specifically explores the realm of tectonics through practice and theoretical research focusing especially on the way architectural tectonics affect other formal disciplines.

Hyundai Kim is the founding director of Tectonics Lab. He holds a Master of Architecture from Princeton University and a Bachelor of Engineering from Yonsei University. He is a registered architect in the state of Florida, United States. After working at Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP New York, he joined the faculty as Professor of Architecture at Ewha Womans University in Seoul.

Tectonics Lab







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