Renovation of the Former Official Residence of the Mayor of Seoul
ONE O ONE architects
Choi Wook received his bachelor’s degree in Architecture from the Hongik University, Korea and his Dottore in Architecture at the Venice Architecture School, Italy. He has been nominated for fellowships from The MacDowell Colony (USA) and Valparaiso Foundation (Spain). He is currently the President of ONE O ONE architects and Visiting Professor at the Korea National University of Arts. He was invited to the Venice Biennale in 2006 and Shenzhen-Hong Kong Biennale in 2007. His work Hyundai Card Design Library received the 2013 DFAA (Design For Asia Awards) and Hyundai Card Office in Yeongdeungpo received the 2014 Kimm Jong Soung award.
Attitudes Towards Historic Sites
Jeon Bonghee (professor, Seoul National University)
Nineteenth century architecture theorists John Ruskin and Eugene Viollet-le-Duc divided views towards how we should engage with historic sites. John Ruskin believed that restoration is merely another name for destruction and was critical about all possible forms of presumptive restoration, whereas Viollet-le-Duc actively advocated creative reconfiguration to recover a formative completeness. Later, these two theories led to two schools of argument in the debate surrounding the restoration of historic architecture. However, what is also interesting is that these two theorists were active in the same period. This period was when Gothic historic sites received attention and when architecture from the Gothic era were no longer present. The recent preservation efforts of architecture from the early half of the 20th century, a historic style currently on trend in Korea, can be interpreted in this aspect.
The Hanyangdoseong Exhibition & Visitor Center in Hyehwadong project, which is the renovation of the former official residence of the Mayor of Seoul, faces two kinds of historic site: the Hanyangdoseong of the Joseon Dynasty and a private residence that was overhauled in around 1940. As written on the shingles, the renovation project revealed that the building was built with lumber produced in 1938. Records show that the CEO of the Joseon movie film production company lived in the house from 1941, meaning that it took about four years for the house to greet a permanent resident. Since Korea’s liberation, this house was originally a private residence, the official residence of the supreme justice, the Mayor of Seoul, and was reborn as a space for the public with the Hanyangdoseong restoration project in 2013. Construction was organized to reconfigure the main building into an exhibition hall, removing portions of the annex building that were facing the castle walls and creating space for the manager’s quarters, installing vital access for the disabled.
Construction was organized to reconfigure the main building into an exhibition hall, removing portions of the annex building that were facing the castle wall and creating space for the manager’s quarters, installing vital access for the disabled.
It was intriguing to observe how famous architects took part in such a small-scale city project, which turned out to be possible because the design budget was subsidized by the cultural foundation and as bidding was rendered unnecessary. It is shameful to note the way public projects generally select designers through the nonsensical process of public bidding. John Ruskin said two centuries ago that the only way to guarantee the quality work of craftsmen is to give equal pay. Under equal pay, an accurate assessment of skills is possible and craftsmen with insufficient abilities will naturally disappear, thereby making it impossible for bad money to drive out good money. This is also the reason why you could at times find creative details and sophisticated handiwork in work completed in the 1960s and 1970s, when capitalism had not progressed to such a degree.
As the house was renovated many times while it was in use as an official residence, it was difficult to presume its original form. Yet, judging by the remaining composition of the spaces, the house can be assumed to be a modern cooperative Japanese residence that has an entrance, a hall, adjacent stand-up style rooms in the center, and sedentary Tatami rooms inside and on the second floor with Engawa and Tokonoma. Therefore, changes to the house after Korea’s liberation would most likely have been made in the living areas. If you observe the last photo of the house before renovation, the Engawa space, which is similar to a toenmaru space, was changed to an hallway, the Tokonoma was blocked to be used as a closet, and the kitchen, bathroom, and bedrooms were upgraded with modern facilities. Skipping over the middle processes, the architect focused on where the house stood and what structure it should take. The house is located at the entrance to the city, where Hanyangdoseong from Hyehwamun stretches out to the ridges of Bugaksan Mountain. Right next to it, an old uphill path leading to Seongbuk-dong cuts through the city walls. It is the last house within the walls and marks where the residential area starts and Hyehwa-dong rotary ends. The city wall acts as the house’s back fence. The longitudinal section shows the designer’s consideration of the plot. From the west, the design plans out an axis from the two story section, a ground level section, a yard, and a path that leads to the walls. The scale is gradually degraded, along with the overall height of the structures. The section that drew most work was the eastern tip of the first floor where the kitchen used to be, exposing the dirt floor to create an outdoor space indoors. The floors naturally became the most integral part of the house and openly suggest to visitors that there is something concealed beneath them. For those who might be perplexed, a low lying window was made to provide a peek view of the walls and an exit way was installed.
A part of floors were removed on 2nd floor in the centre hall. This tied up the divided first and second floor spaces into one exhibition space.
The Hanyangdoseong Exhibition & Visitor Center in Hyehwa-dong faces two kinds of historic site: the Hanyangdoseong of the Joseon Dynasty and a private residence that was overhauled in around 1940.
Parts that seemed to have been randomly installed were removed while the main frame was preserved. Although the columns, structural walls, and roof truss were kept, the surfaces of the floor, walls, and ceiling were aggressively repurposed. As with the discarded floors of the first floor, the floors were removed on the second floor in the centre hall, along with the staircase that used to be the old reception area. This tied up the divided first and second floor spaces into one exhibition space. Leaving the window frame, placing an additional wall, and exposing the ceiling were all tasks to satisfy the purpose of an exhibit space. The project seems to have adjusted this once private space to fit the scale of a public space.
So this space became the space of Choi Wook. This house, built in the colonial period could be found anywhere and has now been transformed into Choi Wook’s exhibition space. Although it is an amazing transformation, in a sense, it seems like deja vu. The architect’s previous project on a Hanok in Samchung-dong was quite similar. The Hanok designed by the architect shook up the entire spatial sense of the Hanok to display a greater resonance. The Dugahun is also a related example. These two projects left an impression on me and inspired even a Korean architecture scholar such as myself. I presume the secret was also in the floors. In spite of how architects need to sometimes accommodate the stand-up lifestyle of western clients and maintain a sedentary space regardless, the architect had meddled with the floors in both of the aforementioned projects. The floors he made were so slippery and flat it horizontally cuts through the site and It is not just the floors. To the architect, windows are ‘details to view scenery’, walls are ‘something that decides the quality of light’, and details are ‘not completion of form’ but ‘texture of sentiment’. With this project, the he shows that an architect is like a musician who can play the same instrument and song repeatedly but make it sound different. Even though he is similar to Eugene Viollet-le-Duc in that he actively intervenes in the restoration of historic sites, he is different in that he does not set the project’s objective point of time as a certain point in the past. In other words, he creates space not in order to return to a formative completeness but a space that comprehensively embraces various levels of time and enables first-hand experience of them. Therefore, his work is rather about re-interpreting history than about restoration, and is a product of treating a historic site with intelligence, skill, and the mindset of today.
Portions of the text that are in single quotation marks are excerpts taken from the architecture company’s official website.
Jeon Bonghee is a professor of Architecture at Seoul National University. He also completed his undergraduate and graduate studies at Seoul National University. He was a visiting scholar at the Harvard-Yenching Institute from 2003 to 2004, and a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at U.C. Berkeley in 2010/2011. Currently he is an operation steering committee member of the mokchon architecture archive, Kyujanggak Institute for Korean Studies, Seoul National University Museum, and the Institute of Seoul Studies.
The architect transformed the house into an exhibition space leaving the window frame, placing an additional wall, and exposing the ceiling.
To the architect, windows are ‘details to view scenery’, walls are ‘something that decides the quality of light, and details are ‘not completion of form’ but ‘texture of sentiment’.
Architect: ONE O ONE architects (Choi Wook)
Design team: Choi Jinsuk, Hwang Sunyoung, Bae Ikhwan, Yoon Heeyoung
Location: Hyehwa-dong 27-1, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea
Programme: cultural facility, neighborhood living facility
Site area: 1,628.1㎡
Building area: 355.63㎡
Gross floor area: 517.25㎡
Building scope: Exhibition bldg. — B1, 2F / Office bldg. — 1F / Info Bldg. — 1F
Building to land ratio: 21.84%
Floor area ratio: 30.75%
Structure: Exhibition bldg. — timber structure (partially reinforced by steel frame) / Office bldg. — timber structure / Info bldg. — masonry structure, reinforced concrete structure
Exterior finishing: exterior insulation and finish system
Interior finishing: paint on gypsum board, wood
Structural engineer: Eun structural engineers
Construction: Hyundo Construction
Mechanical engineer: Joosung MEC
Electrical engineer: Hangil eng.
Design period: Sep. 2014 — Apr. 2015
Construction period: Jan. 2015 — Aug. 2016
Client: Hanyangdoseong Div. of Seoul Metropolitan Gov., Arumjigi Culture Keepers Foundation
edited by Yoon Solhee | photographed by Kim Inchul
materials provided by ONE O ONE architects