Earth House / BCHO Architects

© Wooseop Hwang

Architect: Byoungsoo Cho
Location: Yangpyeong-gun, Gyeonggi-do,
Project Team: Hongjoon Yang, Woohyun Kang, Taehyun Nam, Nicholas Locke, Yongjun Cho
Rammed Earth Consultant: Keunsik Shin
Geothermal: REHAU AG +Co.
Contractor: CPLUS International Co. Ltd.
Site area: 660.00 sqm
Gross floor area: 32.49 sqm
Total floor area: 32.49 sqm
Project Year: 2008-2009
Photographs: Wooseop Hwang, Yong Gwan Kim

Earth House is a house of the sky. It is a house built in honor of Yoon Dong-joo, a Korean poet, who wrote beautiful poems about the sky, the Earth, and the stars.

It is a house which focuses on the primal relationship between nature and humans. It is built with careful consideration of constructional efficiency and our somatic senses.

© Yong Kwan Kim

The 14m x 17m box is buried in the ground and contains 6, 1-pyeong, rooms and two earth filled courtyards. The ‘small house’ is open to the courtyard which is open to the sky. The one pyeong rooms originated from the size of one kan (6×6 ja; 1 ja = approx. 30cm) which are just large enough for an adult to lie down straight. The house has a small kitchen, a study, two resting rooms, a bathroom with a wooden tub and toilet, and a wash room. The rooms are all adjacent to each other and open directly to the earth filled courtyard. Connecting rooms can be joined to create a bigger room. The house doors are small, entering the house requires making your body into a smaller shape.

© Yong Kwan Kim

The lateral pressure from the earth on four sides is resisted by thick concrete retaining wall and a flat roof and base plate. There is also a hidden steel column in the center wall that reinforced the structural plates. Rammed Earth walls provide all the interior spatial divisions and the walls facing both courtyards. The earth used for the walls is from the site excavation. Even though the viscosity of the existing earth was low, only minimal white cement and lime was used so the earth walls can return to the soil later. Four gutters are placed in the corners of the courtyard for drainage. The house uses a geothermal cooling system with a radiant floor heating system under the rammed clay and concrete floor. Off-peak electricity is used at night to heat the small gravel under the floor. A combination of passive cooling and geothermal tubes which are buried in the earth around the buildings keep the temperature cool in summer and warm in winter. A pine tree which was cut down from the site, was sliced into 80mm thick discs and was cast into the concrete walls of the courtyard so as it decays, it will host small plants and new life will arise with time. The wooden canopy protecting the entrance into the small house uses 39mm tensile wires. Recycled lumber was cut into 30mm x 50mm wide pieces and joined with flat steel bar, keeping the material to a minimum. All of the interior furniture and closets are also recycled wood from old Korean gates.

© Yong Kwan Kim

As Yoon’s poetry expresses hope for the future from times of great peril, which he tried to achieve through self-restraint and self-reflection, our hope is that this Earth House would be a house where we can reflect on ‘ourselves’ while living in the present era.

Cite: "Earth House / BCHO Architects" 22 Aug 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 29 May 2015. <>
  • S

    This is the house where I want to live when I am dead.

  • ollie

    incredibly safe. just a shame that the roof and courtyard havent been given as much thought or budget as the bathroom. when the house is almost subsidary to the landscape it seems like people should be given more opportunities to inhabit the external space.

    • Benjamin

      Ever heard of minimalism.

  • brandt

    very promising on the clarity of the courtyard, rear well, entry stair and rear well windows. I have to admit the interior arrangements of rooms make what could be a spatial dynamic akin to the material contrasts into a mere rabbit warren of sameness. kudos for the relentless execution of detail.

  • Ralph Kent

    Quite poetic re: the former tree in the concrete walls, but that courtyard has all the appeal of a prison yard to my mind. Seeing those people at that event, I couldn’t help but think how much more pleasant it would be if they were sitting out just in a wooded clearing with nature around them, rather than in some stark sunken hole. But maybe I’m just too old and sentimental?

  • Leonardo Ximenes

    Great! It takes the notion of shelter to a whole different level. Also a new relation object x landscape: here we have a house that’s NOT a part of the landscape it settles in! Not to mention viewing the surroundings from a brand new perspective (seeing just the top part of the trees, for instance). Being creative in architecture is not about inventing odd shapes, after all…

    • Ralph Kent

      Leonardo. In fairness, there is a rich history of underground courtyard houses dating back to antiquity, so I wouldn’t say the notion of an underground courtyard house is, per se, evidence of being ‘creative’. If you look in Northern Africa and Northern China, you will see many examples of this style of vernacular building. That obviously doesn’t take away from this building, just a shame the courtyard isn’t more inviting.

      • Leonardo Ximenes

        I’ve never seen this type of construction before, to be honest. (Just googled about it, seen a few examples in China like you said, thx!). Still this is very inspiring and rather unusual.

  • dashen

    It’s the first Korean architecture I’m interested.

  • b

    I enjoy the facade facing the interior courtyard, as well as the trees in the concrete. The spaces themselves though seem to lack the same creativity.

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