The Korea Herald

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Hanok style spreads

Married with Western elements, wider demographic favors hanok

By Korea Herald

Published : April 12, 2013 - 22:06

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With more people seeking hanok, or traditional Korean housing, Western-style buildings are also beginning to adopt hanok features.

In search of Korean space

Interior design is the sector of architecture that is most to the Korean touch. Woomi Construction last year featured “Han Style” for its Woomi Fahrenheit apartment in Mokpo, South Jeolla Province.

Right past the entrance is a “sarangchae” room, a guest room that guarantees both privacy for the hosts and comfort for the guests. The entrance to the sarangchae room was designed in traditional Korean style with the lattice and shoe closet decorated with cross-stripes. A narrow porch was installed in the library, which resembles that of hanok, too. 
Hanok-inspired rooms in Woomi Fahrenheit apartment in Mokpo, South Jeolla Province (Courtesy of Woomi Construction) Hanok-inspired rooms in Woomi Fahrenheit apartment in Mokpo, South Jeolla Province (Courtesy of Woomi Construction)

“Mokpo is an old town and there are many important traditional gardens, residences of noblemen and other historical sites nearby. We wanted to inherit that spirit and also make sure that it is reinterpreted to make people comfortable and feel modern at the same time,” an Woomi spokesman said.

“It may look like any other apartment on the outside but once you open the door, there’s magic ― it turns into a hanok with yellow mud-pasted walls, a large veranda, sliding doors, paper windows and a narrow porch,” he added.

The state-run LH also recently announced that it has developed four types of hanok-inspired apartments, based on its research in which 48.1 percent of those surveyed expressed willingness to live in a hanok. Wooden materials will fill in the concrete walls and people can choose among “Sarangbang (gathering room),” “Hansil (traditional room),” “Anmadang (front garden),” and “Dasil (tea room)” types.

“The craving for retro and eco-friendliness led us to rethink the traditional Korean space,” LH said in a press release. Adopting the design into a real apartment is still under discussion but the company said it was confident of future success.

Going public

At Tongin Market in central Seoul near Gyeongbokgung Palace, a Korean traditional gazebo-inspired structure has been erected. A wooden pillar holds up traditional-style wooden rafters, and the glass roof implied a modern touch. It received the Korean Public Design Award in 2012. 
The main gate of Tongin Market in central Seoul,inspired by the Korean traditional gazebo (Courtesy of doojin hwang architects) The main gate of Tongin Market in central Seoul,inspired by the Korean traditional gazebo (Courtesy of doojin hwang architects)

“The main entrance of the market that has decades of history was hardly seen from the boulevard. In order for it to be noticed by the passersby and the neighborhood, I pulled out one shaft to the middle of the street,” said Hwang Doo-jin, the architect of the gate.

“It was also a marriage of Korean and Western architecture, which is very tricky,” said the architect, who is famous for a series of hanok and hanok-inspired buildings.

Hwang said that it is time society broke its prejudice against hanok. “People often think, ‘In hanok you shouldn’t wear shoes, you should not sit on chairs, and there is no second story, which is horribly inefficient in the densely populated city,’” he said. “But in fact, there were multi-story hanok in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and people used chairs and sometimes wore shoes in a limited indoor space. I think the largest barrier in developing the traditional architecture is that rigid preconception,” he said.

He said in order for the hanok trend to bloom, the government must aggressively adopt hanok or semi-hanok style in public spaces ― such as in the Tongin market project, which was commissioned by the local administration. In 2006, the Jongno District Office purchased hanok and established Hyehwa-dong Office in northern Seoul, which was the first hanok public office in Korea.

Korean space

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism last month announced 11 places that represent or reflect a Korean interior: Jeongdong Theater; Seweollang, storage area of the Baesangmyun Brewery; Gukak National High School; Yongma Elementary School in Tongyeong, South Gyeongsang Province; Westin Chosun Hotel; Kama Kwangjuyo; 360° Earth Water Flower Wind Country Club; Dadam, a Korean restaurant in southern Seoul; Yeontabal, a barbecue restaurant in Busan; JINO House, a multipurpose building in Bundang, Gyeonggi Province; and PyunKang Oriental Clinic in southern Seoul.

“All of them were impressive: they understood Korean traditional culture and at the same time didn’t leave out the modern and hip factor,” said Bang Sun-kyu, a ministry official. “We will keep supporting Korean traditional design because in the era of hallyu, the Korean popular culture wave, we believe it is something Korea can be internationally competitive in and can be helpful in bringing up the national brand image,” he said.

“In order to boost Korean-style design and architecture, we should first agree to expand the definition of hanok. Let’s not be too obsessed about hanok being all-wooden, with roof tiles and such. Let’s make it simpler and broader so that more people can be inspired and willing to develop fashionable Korean architecture,” Hwang said.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)