Seoul-based JOHO Architecture effects minimal clever changes to an existing structure to create a house that is now not only at peace with its location but has a substantially lowered carbon footprint as well.
The car does not take very long to span the Namhae Bridge. The busy sounds of Seoul diminish with every kilometre the wheel turns. They fade away into the road already travelled and new sounds greet one on the road ahead. The waves ripple into the sandy shores, wind rustles through the leaves, Scops owls whistle from their secret perches – all magnified in the serene surroundings.
When the owner of a design company based in Seoul bought real estate in the rustic ambience of Namhae and commissioned a local carpenter to build a rural house, he was hoping for a home that would be one with its surroundings. He wanted it to serve as a summer residence, and later a place where he would retire. But, as the construction came to an end, he realised that it was far from what he had envisioned it to be.
This is when Seoul’s JOHO Architecture entered the picture. Set up by Jeonghoon Lee in 2009, the firm has constantly endeavoured to reinterpret traditional Korean spaces through patterns and repetitive units made out of affordable and commonly procurable raw materials giving them strong green architectural attributes.
Mr. Lee has won the 2010 Korea Young Architect Awards and many other international competitions. He tries to pursue new Korean topographical features and an identity based on form and façade that is in harmony with the site.
With this project, named the Namhae Cheo-ma House by the team at JOHO, the difficulty was in correcting the existing structure. The house was simple with two small rooms. But, one of the problems with the house was that it was out of proportion and not good enough to be a part of the beautiful Namhae landscape.
The loess bricks that had been used in the construction made it stick out against the natural scenic backdrop. The client was keen that the house be in sync with the abundant nature around it and have a lower energy use than before. The challenge for the design team was to achieve this without tearing down the existing space. Thus, the plan emerged to give the old house a new louvered facade.
In some projects the effort in the designing and planning is visible in the end product, while in projects like these the simplistic appearance almost belies the strenuous creative process. Aluminium pipes were bent, mirrored and joined to create perfect diamond-shaped louvers. To get the curvature of the facade absolutely right was the challenge.
Even detailed drawings could not be of much help when it came to the actual creation process, and it was mostly a lot of trial and error that helped determine the final shape of the curve. It took two months of tough construction to provide a new face to the newly christened Namhae Cheo-ma House.
The Namhae Cheo-ma house now stands at peace in its location. The new facade makes the house appear significantly larger than the older structure but its synchronisation with its environs lends it a graceful lightness. A diamond-shaped aluminium louver pattern greets the visitor as he approaches the house. It sets a boundary between the land and the house without being obtrusive.
The louvers filter the strong noontime heat and help keep the interiors of the house cool without compromising on the light flooding into it.
The material used is easy to source, affordable and could be worked on at the site itself thus cutting down substantially on travel miles and the loss of energy.
It is also strong enough to survive in the open. A skylight has been added above the kitchen to make most of the ample sunshine and minimise the use of artificial light during the day.
Large window-like cut-outs in the facade further blur the lines between the outside and the inside. The locally obtained treated wood used to build the ramp gives the house an earthy feel. The new muted colour scheme also helps in its marriage with the outdoors. A deck has been constructed on the roof to allow the inhabitants to make the most of the sublime Namhae landscape.