Text description provided by the architects. Before deciding on my definition of what a house is, I had to answer the question of how I understand architecture. To me, architecture is a dream shared between the architect and the client/user. When a client approaches an architect, he/she often begins by asking about the required atmosphere or functions, namely the number of rooms, the kinds of possible views, and the best materials. However, what a client really wants is an architect who can identify and realize the client's intended dream. Then, what is a house? Among all architectural spaces, the house is the true expression of an individual, a client and his/her family. Therefore, designing a house is much more than a routine architectural project; it is a fascinating process of relating to and connecting with the client and his/her family.
P-house is the first house I designed back home in Korea, after 10 years of architectural practice in the US. That professional practice in US was wonderful experience for me, but I always felt something was missing. Why? Perhaps, I could not find any rewarding, small residential projects with a true human connection. Lucky for me, I met a client who led me to this wonderful home site. I trekked up one of the narrow winding streets in Seoul's Pyeong chang-dong (district). There it was, on a slight curved in the street, nestled between a branch of Mt. Bukhan to the north side and wide open to the south. The site affords a magnificent view of Mt. Bugak as well as Seoul Tower atop Namsan. I admired my client's eye in selecting such a wonderful place for a home. In this amazing landscape, many wonderful ideas popped into my head for making his dream come true. I wanted to create a relational space where people and nature could be one amid ever-changing time and seasons.
Then, how can people and nature become one? The human being has six senses, so visual stimulation alone cannot bring people and nature together completely. How was I to realize my client's dream? The clue could be found in traditional Korean houses, including the Feng-shui and traditional spatial layout. People often dismiss "Feng-Shui and traditional space' as something for a bygone era. However, if you understand the theoretical and philosophical background of these concepts, they can trigger new design alternatives in today's high-tech world. Feng-Shui is composed of the five elements metal, wood, earth, fire and water. The orientation of the house as well as the location of each room were decided based upon the five elements with respect to the client's year, month, day and hour of birth. The five elements are also used as materials to express architectural texture, for example, Jungsun marble for earth gray/black zinc for metal and Ipe as wood.
Then what is "traditional space"? It is space with sequence and repose. These days almost everyone lives in monotonous apartment blocks in Korea, and the lack of sequence and repose in space may cause people to lose their sense of time and imagination. Worse still is the psychological blockage for modern people. Multiple spatial layers of traditional space create very interesting sequences, as a front door leads to a small public garden, another middle to a bigger private garden, and so on. Moreover, a shoulder-high stone wall creates another level of spatial relationship with visual connection but without physical separation.
P-house integrated these traditional multiple layers in not only horizontal but also vertical spatial sequences. As a front door opens, you are led into a cozy semi-public garden enclosed by the projected second floor terrace above and a shoulder-high stone fence in your left. A warm continuous wood surface on your right moves you through a glass door and you find a middle wood door. The door opens and you are into a tall vertical open courtyard, and a row of bamboos and two stories of white marble frame your view through a clear front window, and Mt. Bugak is visible in the south. The courtyard becomes a visual corridor to nature as well as the micro-nature inside the house. Around the vertical white marble wall, the space compresses horizontally with open kitchen/dining area, while the space dramatically expands at the vertical two-story-high livingroom, and you are greeted with a magnificent view of Mt. Bugak again. And through a stairway another amazing sequence starts again with the flow of wood and stone wall blurring the border between inside and outside. As the distinction between architecture and nature evaporates, human beings and nature are no more in the relation of subject and object, and you can feel the ecstasy of becoming one.
Having the perfect house is a dream come true for the client, as is designing such a house for the architect. A true house is a dream shared between architect and client; it cannot be built without a true connection between them. As you get to know each other, suddenly you may discover that shared dream and vision hidden in the subconscious, and unutterable delight will follow. That is the real reason for my architectural design work, which is a door connecting the past and the future, and real and imaginary.