NAKAE ARCHITECTS + KKRE
Nakae Yuji received a Bachelor and Master of Architecture degree from Yokohama National University. He joined Endoh Design House. He established NAKAE ARCHITECTS (Tokyo) in 2004 and KKRE (Seoul) with Wangyoung Lee in 2011. His major works are NE Apartment, MM Apartment, Facing True South and Sancheong Project, etc. He has been awarded Good Design Award (2008, JDP, Japan), AR Awards Highly-Commended (2008, the Architectural Review, UK), and Tokyo Architecture Prize Award Prizewinner (2009, Tokyo Association of Architectural Firms, Japan)
Yoon, Minhwan received B.Arch of Engineering from Kyonggi University, Master of Architecture and completed the Ph.D. program without a Ph.D. degree of Architecture in Waseda University. He worked for One O One Architects and now in KKRE. His major works are Folding Screen House, Brother and Sister House and Sancheong Project. He has been awarded SD Review 2009 (2009, Kajima Institute Publishing, Japan), Heritage Tomorrow Prize and Heritage Tomorrow Project2 (2011, Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation, Korea)
Reviewer A The essence of this work is the courtyard serving as public space. Succeeding in capturing the fluidity of the exposed concrete walls must have been a difficult task, indeed, which has in turn well resolved the conflict facing Korean multiple housing projects. Despite curved surfaces and Duplex being a concept not easily applicable to Korean lifestyles, here it has been well planned out. A new form of multiple housing has been suggested.
Reviewer B New potential for the landscape in the centre of Seoul has been evoked through this project. The public space of the housing has been pulled into the midriff of the building, attempting to create a new concept of the path. This is an extra-ordinary attempt indeed and such experimentation must be highly commended for future continuation.
The Alternative to Collective Living
A new residential form, colloquially known as urban living space, is rapidly filling old residential areas, in much the same way as multi-family housing did at the end of the 20th century. These developments, built to increase the value added to various plots, are consistent with today's gradual shift from family-centred homes to single-person households, from the growing number of small families and as a consequence the increased demand for housing. Residential zones near subway stations, convenient for commuters, are gradually changing to clusters of small homes in response to this demand. Family homes were previously built as scaled-down versions of conventional apartments, with similar floor plans but fewer or smaller rooms, rather than as standalone studio units (known in Korea as ‘one-rooms’). The new urban living space features many studio apartments and open plan floor plans, designed specifically with single-person households or small families in mind. When it comes to urban living space, however, the form and number of units is determined by an economic logic rather than through a process whereby the design is led by the thoughts of the architect; this logic determines even the external appearance of and materials used in buildings. As a result, urban living space has until now been excluded from architectural discussions. This has led to a lack of debate upon the important issues such as the inevitable social changes incurred by small-scale urban residential developments, the relationship of these individuated units to architecture as a whole, and the possibilities for new forms of urban living; this is detrimental to the health of architecture. Against this background, a house observed in ND Apartment posits a few questions on the notion of collective living.
Just like that of conventional architecture, the design of collective housing prompts three questions: where the home is to be built, what kind of home it will be and how will it be built.
The first of these concerns the relationship between the building and its surroundings, and most integrally how its design is inclusive of the buildings behind and to each side, attempting to communicate with the road and passers-by in front of the facade. In residential zones of gradually increasing density, the question of what kind of urban posture a building strikes is directly related to what the architect wants her or his building to be within the city. This is a question of social attitude, in terms of how the building meets the roads it broaches and faces, and what value it brings to the city, rather than as a question of formal expression. The ND Apartment has no landscaping or garden on its road-facing perimeter and its outer staircases are blocked off by gates. It is hard to find any signs of consideration of the urban environment that it occupies. It does offer an unusual sight, however, in that the main lines of flow linking each unit are external rather than internal, giving a view from the street of people moving between units. These staircases are also more than internal characteristics of their own respective buildings; their presence must approach and affect future adjacent buildings.
The building offers an unusual sight of the main lines of flow linking each unit externally rather than internally, giving a view from the street of people moving between units.
Another issue when it comes to the concept of collective housing is the way the units are combined within each building. This is what reveals whether or not they can offer possibilities for different lives lived through mutual determination, as well as physical and chemical combinations. External staircases, the most striking characteristic of the ND Apartment, are therefore not just the most striking detail but also an important topic for discussion. In addition to their basic purpose of providing vertical links between each housing unit, these staircases have two functions. Firstly, their huge second-floor landings appear to be central courtyards much like those found in traditional Korean houses, so that the six units on this floor are linked by a courtyard of considerable size in comparison to that of the building as a whole. Other collective housing developments, of course, have staircases, used by their tenants for moving around, but it is rare to find an example in any other building where the doors of six households come together in such a generous space. It follows that this space increases the likelihood of people meeting each other and as such encourage the formation of an inclusive community. Secondly, though it is hard to say how this will change in the future, these staircases allow those ascending them to look out over the gardens of houses to the west as if they were their own. These lines of flow continue to the rooftops, which offer views over Seoul Children's Grand Park, Mt. Yongmasan and Mt. Achasan. If the outdoor spaces and rooftops of most collective housing were abandoned spaces, belonging to no one, those here have the potential to change into communal spaces. Of course, since all of these things depend on the actions of people I would like to see how this changes in the future. One regrettable aspect of the development, however, is that views to the outside in each unit are blocked off, preventing their existence as open spaces.
The final architectural question posed by communal housing is whether each unit can offer the possibility of an alternative lifestyle. The ND Apartment consists of eight units: six on the second floor, one on the third and one—the home of the architect—on the fourth. The thing that renders this development distinct from other urban living spaces is that all units are different in shape and size, and that all the second floor units, in spite of their reduced floor area, are designed to be a duplex. The architect says this is because he wanted to meet a variety of demands by supplying diverse units, but the fact that each unit is so small, and has the same internal finish and staircase as the others, makes this diversity difficulty to ascertain.
The multi-floor cross-section of the second-floor units, something rarely found in Korean homes of such a small floor space, is a unique aspect of the ND Apartment, but, as stated above, this comes across clearly as the architect's attempt to suggest alternatives for households living new lifestyles. It will be worth the wait to see what kind of lifestyle is enabled by this separation of space through the use of two floors, rather than between several rooms. The placing of six households on the second floor and one on the third is a unique and extremely clever idea. The third-floor home, while separating the second floor from the fourth, will allow a variety of lifestyles depending on its resident. It may become a guest house for its owner, or may come to accommodate residents of a different nature.
The difference may be small, but this is in fact the most striking part of the building's design and may affect the way its composition functions as a whole.
Another striking aspect of the exterior, along with its curved walls, is the exclusive use of exposed concrete. The architect has stated that he felt particularly uncomfortable at the groundless use of bricks or granite tile cladding for the facades of other multi-family collective residences nearby and has stated that he used exposed concrete as a material that could make the curved exterior space appear abstract and honest, but has also expressed disappointment at the level of workmanship and methods used in Korea when building with it. The light form of the interior curved surfaces and the use of exposed concrete function well as a means of creating space, but it is regrettable that the architect was not entirely familiar with Korea's climate, designing the building in such a way that part of the sloping roof on its western side risks becoming dirtier and dirtier over time.
Though foreign architects are producing more and more work in Korea, two aspects of this building make it unusual and therefore noteworthy. Firstly, this is a development that has been built to an extremely high standard, despite the fact that foreign architects hardly ever take on such small projects in Korea. Secondly, the architect has stated that he did not just do the job because he had the chance, but that he discovered meaning in the working process and wants to carry on conducting projects in Korea. Secondly, differences in regulations, building techniques and working processes undeniably caused considerable hardship, but these processes revealed differences to the architect's work in Japan and gave him the chance to look at himself objectively. He says that awareness of one's own architecture is highly meaningful in that it can function as a mirror to represent the way other people see one, and that he wants others to experience this opportunity too. ‘Ultimately, buildings that are the product of hard thinking allow people to live good lives’, he says. This optimistic way of thinking strikes a chord with us, too, here and now at a time when people are attempting to locate architecture’s problems outside architecture itself.
The huge second-floor landings appear like the central courtyards found in traditional Korean houses, so that the six units on this floor are linked by a courtyard of considerable size in comparison to that of the building as a whole.
The curved surfaces of the exterior are continued into the inside and the fact that each unit is designed as a ‘space’, rather than a series of rooms, allows it to be interpreted as an expression of fluid contemporaneity rather than as solidity.
Choi, Moongyu obtained B. Arch and Master of Engineering from Yonsei University, and Master of Architecture from Columbia University. Having worked in Toyo Ito Architects, Hanul Architects and Group See, he founded Ga.A Architects in 1999. Currently he is a professor of architectural engineering at Yonsei University. He has been invited to the 11th & 9th Venice Biennale, the 7th Sao Paulo International Biennial of Architecture, and the 2007 Shenzhen and HongKong Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism and Architecture.
Architect: NAKAE ARCHITECTS (Nakae Yuji) + KKRE (Yoon, Minhwan)
Design team: Nakamura Yui (NAKAE ARCHITECTS)., Lee, Minjeong (KKRE)., Kim, Kyungyul (YUL architectural design office)
Construction supervision: SD group Architectural office
CM: Creative Space
Location: Seoul, Korea
Program: Multi-family dwelling
Site area: 326m2
Building area: 194.48m2
Gross floor area: 465.68m2
Building scope: 4F
Building to land ratio: 59.66%
Floor area ratio: 142.85%
Structure: RC Exterior finishing: Exposed concrete, T24 low-e pair glass
Interior finishing: Wood flooring, eco paint on plaster board
Design period: Apr. –Oct. 2012
Construction period: Dec. 2012 – Jul. 2013
Client: Jun, Kwanghee., Hur, Eunsoon
Materials provided by Nakae Architects, KKRE│Photographed by Sakaguchi Hiroyasu