LocationSeoul, South Korea
Architect in ChargeHyoungnam Lim, Eunjoo Roh
Project TeamMinjung Choi, Joowon Moon, Sangwoo Yi, Seongwon Son, Sungpil Lee, Hanmoe Lee, Joowon Moon, Sunmin Park
ConstructionStarsis – Jongguk An
Joowon MoonJoowon Moon
Text description provided by the architects. By chance, a man took a stroll through a winding alley in the old town of Seoul. He saw an old house on a mere 66 square meter land. The Land was filled with the house, leaving a tiny garden. Though it was small, he wanted a garden so he decided to purchase the house and fix it.
We visited the town after we got the commission to design the house. The house was so old that even a flick of a finger could collapse it, and it was the second one in a very narrow alley that no one would notice if they passed in hurry.
After making a decision to fix and renovate the house, we reinforced the partition and made improvements on waterproofing, ventilation and lighting. But unexpected circumstances forced us to cease the work and made us go back to the drawing board. But a new building meant that we had to abide by the current construction law, which limited building’s build area to less than 23 square meters on each floor, and lower than 2nd storey.
All in all, the gross floor area was 46 square meters, and it was way too small even he had simple household. We designed a two story building with an attic within the legal limits. The most suitable structure for the condition was light weight wooden structure. Surrounded by houses mounting to a dense condition, we designed a ‘thin house’ for more light and better ventilation.
We used the ground floor for living room, second floor for bedroom, and the attic for Numaru (Korean balcony) and library. And we put a bookshelf and storage closet on the wall next to the stairs to put most of the tools inside.
To give variety to the high, narrow mass, we borrowed a cross pattern from <Suwon Hwaseong Fortress>, which is an old castle in Korea. Also, we put a long steel plate on the wall, under the round window of the attic, so that sunlight can draw its various shadows over time.
A part of the attic was designed like ‘Numaru’ which acts as a boundary between inside and outside in Korean traditional architecture. A space that is neither inside nor outside, the owner can take a rest and enjoy the view.
Upon the request of the owner wanting to plant some tree or flower in his small garden, we reused some of the original walls as fences, and let the gap between the wall and house become a service space for wind and become a small garden.
A small house is built in a small land. The garden is also tiny but it was designed to include various sceneries. First of all, you can see the original wall-the fence- from the living room. And in front of the fence, there is a persimmon tree to feel the seasons and watch the orange color in autumn. Other empty spaces and gaps are the garden: we planted some shade plants like bracken and buckler fern in the shade, and also planted about 50 kinds of wild flowers in the garden in front of the entrance. We drew some paintings representing various symbols on the east side garden, where we piled up some blocks with holes and fix some bamboo in it instead of fences.
On the old original wall, we drew a ‘wild flower map’ with names and locations of the wild flowers; which we called weeds before we knew the names. The garden became a family of the owner, changing its color every season. The neighborhood became brighter than before. Just like a flower seed accidentally landing on a tiny earth and bloom, the house bloomed like a wild flower in an old town.