House of Hwagae
Kwon Hyungpyo and Kim Soonjoo graduated from Inha University and co-founded BAU architects in 2009. They work on a range of city, architecture and landscape projects, also including interior, furniture and product design. Through research projects such as Seoul Geumcheon Public Room and Jongno Slow Day, they are studying the potential of public spaces in the city. In addition to this they are continuing architectural activities with children in an elementary school and a museum. Their main projects are Heung Museum, Sangsu-dong Alley House and Sam. They were awarded the Korean Young Architect Award in 2012.
The cement wall, with perforations of irregular size, breaks up the ascetic façade of the outer wall and recalls the tea fields, creating a soft impression.
What has been Built and Where?
You Bangkeun (professor, Gyeongsang National University)
I would like to talk about this house under two general themes. The first is ‘place’ and the second is ‘function (contents)’. In other words, to ask ‘what has been built and where?’
Place: The Origin of Silence
After passing the Seomjin River and a field on the left side, Route 19 leads to the Hwagae three-way intersection. This is the starting point of Ssanggyesa’s cherry blossom road. A teahouse named ‘Ssanggye Tea’ stands at the end on the road where two or three story shops and messy signboards have sprung up within these famous country lanes. Here, Ssanggyesa’s cherry blossom road begins and an artificial annoyance gives its way to the fuss of spring blossoms. Now we need to keep quiet. Only then can we enjoy the gorgeous parade of cherry blossom to the full.
The architect tried to create a mise en scéne attesting to silence by means of architecture. Tranquility is emphasized by the horizontal orientation of the 500mm long bricks and their 30mm wide joint. The actual joints seem to be 20~25mm wide, but I think this is enough. Grey cement bricks seem to fit well within the shell of the tea house at the entrance to a temple. The cement wall, with perforations of irregular size, breaks up the ascetic façade of the outer wall and recalls the tea fields, creating a soft impression.
The house, which is a little set back from the road, seems eager to reveal that this is the entrance to the flower way. It emphasizes the vanishing point of the one-point perspective that begins to appear when entering the first three-way intersection as the three-step stairway disappears from the end of the building on the slope of the road. On the way back home, along the way, a rising mass forms a scene similar to its neighbouring buildings. The sense of place expressed through the mass and use of materials seems to have appropriate intentions.
Function (contents): Motorcycling on a gat (Korean traditional hat)
How did the architect manage to draw connections between the client’s appreciation for the tradition (gat) of tea making that has occupied several generations of his family and the contemporary demand to conceive of the space as a contemporary café (motorcycle)? This question was answered by the client upon his first visit to the site. The client’s son acted as a buffer between ‘gat’ represented by ‘tea’ and ‘motorcycle’ by ‘café’.
This is a teahouse serving the traditional tea of Hadong region. However, its interior is by far the most different from the scale of the conventional teahouse. Is it now considered outdated to have a small and compact space that allows us to gaze into the empty tea cup, making us wait for the next one, sitting around a tea table in a small room suffused with the scent of tea that permeates the window paper, wallpaper and the warmth of the floor and fingertips? There must be something else that characterises the small square pyramid roof prayer room and annexed chapel attached to the long corridor in Le Corbusier’s Counvent de La Tourette rather than just their size.
Although a sedentary lifestyle teahouse with a stepped floor looks like it could be the combination of a motorcycle and a gat, the best architecture in the world may well be one that satisfies its client! And it is true that this teahouse is based on a well scripted scenario that shows the tension and relaxation of vertical movement as a variation on inner space and outer space: the Cheongsong Forest in front of the building comes into view when one arrives at the rooftop terrace.
Now let’s focus on the dramatic effects inside that are created by irregular perforations on the outer wall. They may remind you of Peter Zumthor’s Kolumba Museum. Why did Peter Zumthor make irregular holes with bricks of such sizing? It was the result of recycling the size of the bricks left in the ruins as a unit, and this gives us an impression of a combination of old pieces made with new materials by means of fragmented light, which handle the thin continuity of time that falls inside. Why does it feel different even though it is also realised in this teahouse? The architect seems to have failed in the aim to carefully consider the use of materials. However, his intention to express the contrast in materials in a cautious manner, which are rough and smooth as well as cold and warm, could be understood and sensed when observing the construction.
The architect’s effort seems to have mingled very well with the place in terms of the popular premise, ‘What has been built and where’. The contents may depend on one’s subjective stance, Indicating the beginning and end of the Ssanggyesa flower road. However, this building will welcome people with its tea fragrance from the inside.
Graduating from the Versailles University of Architecture, You Bangkeun worked in JPJ Paris. After returning to Korea, his design work was mainly focused on the properties of building materials and he was put in charge of the urban regeneration project in Milan while he worked as a Visiting Professor at Milan Polytechnic. He, a Professor of Architecture at Gyeongsang National University, is currently running a UNESCO sponsored international studio. His major works include the Elderly Welfare Center in Paris, the Dobong Information Library, the Eugene Science Research Center, Goseong Memorial Tower, and the Jirisan Residence.
It is true that this teahouse is based on a well scripted scenario that shows the tension and relaxation of vertical movement as a variation on inner space and outer space.
The Cheongsong Forest in front of the building comes into view when one arrives at the rooftop terrace.
A Flower Shop Where You may Meet an Elegant Woman
Chun Eun (principal, Chun Architects)
A flower shop where you may meet an elegant woman; not so neat as to be imposing, this elegance lends a comfortable but tidy impression, as if I were greeted by just a quiet smile and a gaze from a distance, when entering to the sound of wind chimes hanging on the door. At the same time, the atmosphere is so refined that only a few words of questioning may be enough to get a cool answer. I guess such levels of sophistication may only coexist with a kind of social filtration which only admits people who can recognise its value’. This is my first impression and a lingering memory of ‘House of Hwagae’.
A Well-Tailored Mass and Refined Details
The mass is delicately covered with a rough material of 500mm long cement bricks, presenting an illusion of exposed concrete formed by pine panels and intentionally 30mm wide joints. The clearly opened window beneath the mass; the sharp steel canopy that separates the contrast of closing and opening; the open space created by the mass setback over it: all of which present a lightness which is neat and tidy, free from depression due to boredom and heaviness. This building was outstanding, in that it achieved a well-controlled proportion throughout lots of elaborations and the delicate details of various materials. The interpretation of building materials as pure substance and of its delicate details could be found not only in the exterior of the building but also in every corner of the interior.
The Hidden Light of Imagination and the Continual Light of Reminiscence
A building begins to talk when it reveals its own story and encourages curiosity at the same time. In House of Hwagae, two lights play this role. ‘Small holes give the impression of fragments of shattered light’ on this closed mass, which raises my curiosity about the story. The ‘long continual light’ seen through the clearly opened window, beneath the controls, reveals the speed of cognition by showing itself to the street as if it refused suspended time. Stirring up a passersby’s imagination, the ‘hidden light of imagination and continual light of reminiscences’ embedded in a concrete mass urge them to go inside.
Variation of Space by Flows and Halts
The main spaces of the House of Hwagae are juxtaposed within a large space on both sides of a wall. Remaining as a continuous space, flowing around the central wall rather than separate rooms, it continues to the museum on the second floor decreasing only in the size. The flow of this space begins to play with its variation as the layer changes.
While the metronome ticks in andante in the store space, this manual spring automatically slows down to an adagio in the tea room, which is a good place to stay after ascending step-by-step. Arriving at the museum space is like a long sigh of relief, I feel as if I experienced a silent moment like a run-down spring. The flow of consecutive spaces in House of Hwagae intuitively takes the rhythm of time as it moves on from ‘everyday time’ to ‘tea time’ and to ‘meditation time’. It is the open terraces facing the Cheongsong Forest, spreading out to the west and at the end of the Hwagae Stream to the north, that embody the moment of the last tick of the metronome thanks to the power of a spring. This is the moment at which the variation towards the ‘time of nature’, in which only the wind occasionally reveals to us the flow of time.
The House of Hwagae, designed by BAU architects, upholds the quality of the space throughout, connecting well-refined details and flowing spaces. The intentional inflow of natural light and the variation of artificial light are also instrumental within the space. If I have to make one comment, I would like to point out that it would be better for such a space to maintain the scent of Korean tea.
The flavour of coffee touches the nose from the moment it is ground. Unlike coffee, Korean traditional tea offers a momentary fragrant aroma that can be smelt when placed near the mouth. Although it may taste as weak as water, each sip gives off a comforting fragrance that is soft and tender. I hoped that there could be a space with such a fragrance. Actually, I found a potential candidate for it; the place where the tea ceremony hall is connected to the museum and the perforations on the hollow wall provide the feast of light to the exterior. It certainly gave the impression of a momentary pause to the flow. However, I hoped that this space of pause would have a smoother smell, or create a breathtaking moment.
Tacit Restrictions and the Boundary between Temporality and a Sense of Place
A project with temporality as tradition, and the sense of place as a region, is inevitably bound to involve conflict when it comes to taking an architectural attitude. The client, the master of traditional tea and the architect must have experienced conflicts a few times when the attractive programme of a traditional tea museum forced him to retreat to the past. However, the House of Hwagae definitely showed the ongoing clear attitude of ‘Now and Here’. Beyond the boundary of tacit constraints, it was the creation of a new history.
Chun Eun received her masters degree in architecture from Columbia University and in architectural engineering from Yonsei University. Currently she is a principal of Chun Architects. Starting with ‘Transfiguration of the space 1, 2’ in 2006, she supervised the curating and exhibition design of the ‘Korea Modern Architecture Exhibition Rebirth of Place’ in National Museum of Contemporary Art in 2013, and 70 Years of Korean Housing Special Exhibition ‘From Hope in 30m2 to Our City’.
Arriving at the museum space is like a long sigh of relief, visiters feel as if they experienced a silent moment like a run-down spring.
The ‘long continual light’ seen through the clearly opened window, beneath the controls, reveals the speed of cognition by showing itself to the street as if it refused suspended time.
Architect: BAU architects (Kwon Hyungpyo, Kim Soonjoo)
Design team: Lee Youngbok, Lee Myungjoo, Shim Sangil, Lee Kayeon
Location: 621-6, Top-ri, Hwagae-myeon, Hadong-gun, Gyeongsangnam-do, Korea
Programme: museum, restaurant
Site area: 784㎡
Building area: 363.36㎡
Gross floor area: 813.11㎡
Building scope: 3F
Building to land ratio: 46.35%
Floor area ratio: 103.71%
Exterior finishing: cement brick
Interior finishing: exposed concrete
Structural engineer: Seoul Structural Engineers
Mechanical and electrical engineer: Jinwon Engneering
Construction: YIGAK Engineering and Construction
Landscape desing: BAU architects
Design period: Sep. 2014 – May 2015
Construction period: June 2015 – Apr. 2016
Client: Ssanggye Tea
edited by Park Gyehyun | photographed by BAU architects
materials provided by BAU architects