Suwon

Single house project in Suwon-si, Korea
Architecture
Team: Ki Jun Kim, Sangmin Kim
Table, Vinyl Record Storage: forgood furniture [link]
2021-2023

House by the Wall

Situated within the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress, a UNESCO World Heritage site, stands a solitary family dwelling. This site, illustrated by Hwaseong Haenghwado, a historical depiction of events of King Jeongjo's visit to Hyeonryungwon and banquet in 1795, is believed to have served as a residential area within the fortress during Joseon Dynasty. The orientation of the house towards Dongilporu and the fortress walls on its western side, its connection to the landscape of Paldal Mountain in the distance, and its location at a three-way intersection grant it a natural presence as a landmark, its form and spatial logic impeccably interwoven with the surrounding context.

Ubiquitous Element, Unique Whole
The exhibition "Floor Area Ratio Game" at the Korea Pavilion of the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale shed light on how downtown housing and neighborhood facilities in South Korea are often influenced by regulatory constraints, exemplified by the diagonal line representing the floor area ratio. However, the client of this house sought liberation from these rules. They believed that providing ample space for two individuals to live comfortably outweighed filling the entire available area. Instead, the house site is situated within the historical and cultural aesthetic district designated in the Suwon Hwaseong district unit plan, established in 2020, adjacent to the Suwon Hwaseong Fortress. The house design embraces the identity of the area shaped by these regulations, aspiring to become a reference building in the neighborhood while adhering to local ordinances.

Two Faces from Three Sides
We designed the distinct expressions generated by three sides of the building, observed by individuals approaching the corner from the southern side of the site, and the encounter with two facets while strolling along the ramparts on the western side, to function as equivalent façades rather than a hierarchical division. However, in bestowing a building with a specific expression, it is not imperative to anthromorphize, or adhere to the left-right symmetry characteristic of a human countenance. Instead, the two facets evolved into an architectural façade imbued with symmetrical qualities that Vitruvius elucidated in ‘The Architectural Treatise’ as "the harmony arising from the interconnectedness of the individual elements, derived from coefficients calculated independently based on the form of the building and its entirety."

Completed with Aging
The exterior design of the building establishes a dialogue with the fortress by the understanding and reconstructing of the mutual relationship and construction principles of the main materials used in Suwon Hwaseong Fortress. The building's vertical composition comprises a sandstone-based inorganic natural mortar stylobate and a body constructed by stacking white and blue bricks in a ratio of approximately 3:1. Thinly applied mortar preserves the masonry's texture, while the roof is adorned with dark gray tiles. Openings, including entrances and ventilation windows, punctuate the transition between the stylobate and the body, creating a distinction in height. Granite is employed for the site's flooring and entrance stairs, while square windows with protruding ultra-high-strength concrete frames offer scenic views. Inspired by nearby castle gun holes, these windows facilitate observation and defense while safeguarding the interior from external view. The building is envisioned to become ingrained in the landscape, acquiring weathering and aging over time, akin to Suwon Hwaseong Fortress itself, leaving lasting impressions on its visitors.

Spatial Structure
Considering that the clients, a couple, spend a substantial amount of time at home, including remote work, the house necessitated separate yet harmonious spaces for work and relaxation. Simultaneously, the design aimed to provide various beautiful views while maintaining privacy for a house prominently positioned at a corner intersection. Adolf Loos's Raumplan provided insight into developing a spatial structure capable of addressing these contrasting needs. Each living area, except for the bathroom and storage, possesses its own floor level and ceiling height, designed to accommodate their primary functions. Through close collaboration with the clients, each room reflects their unique preferences and showcases different landscapes through strategically positioned windows. An organic arrangement of stairs, resembling a spine, establishes an internal sequence and hierarchy among the living spaces. The staircase arrangement serves as the foundation for the entire interior composition, aligning its direction with the outdoor stairs connecting three levels of Changryong-daero Street and walls promenade. This approach promotes dialogue not only within the internal spaces but also with the surrounding environment. The comfortable slope of the stairs, with a width of 30 cm and a height of 16 cm, allows for leisurely movement and encourages exploration of the surroundings.
The house adopts the mezzanine floor type, elevating the lower floor space for enhanced privacy. Upon entering the house and ascending the entrance stairs, occupants are greeted by the Wintergarten (conservatory located inside the house), an indoor garden featuring large windows that accommodate potted plants even during cold weather. Adjacent to the Wintergarten is the kitchen space, positioned approximately 50 cm higher than the regular floor level of an old house. These windows, designed to ensure optimal sunlight for year-round plant growth, create an engaging inward gesture that contrasts with the outward-oriented response of the façade.
Passing through the studio and ascending the longest stairway leads to the atypical living room, where carefully positioned windows frame close-up and distant views of the entire Hwaseong area. The living room benefits from natural sunlight streaming in from windows in three directions, ensuring a consistent sense of warmth and brightness throughout the day. A small kitchenette for coffee and tea is situated in one corner of the living space.
Ascending three more steps, occupants reach the bedroom, which offers views of Seojangdae and Paldal Mountain, encompassing the statue of Maitreya Buddha in Daeseungwon.

Materials of the Tactile Aspect
The interior spaces predominantly feature white coating and two types of wood. Light oak is employed for furniture, hallway, and outer walls of the stairwell, while dark walnut adds warmth and depth to the interior doors, sloping roof ceiling, and central volume wall within the stair area. This combination strikes a balance, creating a vibrant yet serene atmosphere. Oak flooring is used in the main living rooms, while linoleum finds application in the kitchen, laundry room, and storage areas. Walnut panels surround the concrete-framed view windows on the inside, emphasizing their frame effect and preserving the traces of long-term use.