Edge House II
Joongwon Lee + iSM-Architects
Joongwon Lee received a Bachelor Degree from Sungkyunkwan University and a Master Degree from MIT, Cambridge, MA. He is currently the Chairman of Department of Architecture at Sungkyunkwan University and a partner of iSM-Architects. His publications are Story of Boston in Seeing Architecture (2012) and awarded King Sejong Book, Story of New York in Seeing Architecture (2014).
Kyung-A Lee received a Bachelor Degree from Sungkyunkwan University and a Master Degree from MIT, Cambridge, MA. She is a Massachusetts registered architect and a member of AIA. She is currently a partner of iSM-Architects.
Between Public Demand and Private Programmes
Chung Kwi Weon (director, Zedero Lab.)
Central Space and View
Characterised by an exceptionally high floor, with a wide, open window, a 2-storey study room forms the central space of the Pangyo Edge House II. The space is quite different in appearance to a conventional study space that converges inwards; in front of the built-in bookshelf sits a desk, whose direction (more than any other feature) reveals precisely what the client wanted for the space. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the origin of this house’s existence is found in the view over Techno Valley beyond the windows that open towards the east. The owner, who after a long life of living in apartments had been searching for land in Pangyo to build a single family house, said he didn’t hesitate in choosing the present lot which, although surrounded on all sides by neighbours, had a clear open view to the east. It also has the added benefit of a reduction in noise pollution emanating from the Gyeongbu Expressway due to a usefully situated group of trees facing the site nearby. Handicaps such as the slightly sloping ground or the irregularly shaped land should not cause any problems.
It is the responsibility of the architect to solve the challenges that the land itself presents. The site of the Edge House II borders two roads; the northern and eastern portion of the site has many sides, while the southern and western edges form a ninety degree corner. This corner house is generally perceived by pedestrians in a variety of ways, and in a much shorter amount of time than a standard lot. Therefore, how, and in what form the building should be divided, what should ‘face’ the two, what independent and two-dimensional facades should be introduced, and in what fashion the building’s opening should be situated, and so on, all become extremely important issues for the architect.
The architects of iSM-Architects also had a clear stance on this matter: ‘In order to provide privacy, fewer windows have been placed along the public roads, and due to this, the wall which should be transparent is transparent only in principle. We did not want the provision of the owner’s privacy to be the reason for choosing a closed exterior’. In other words, instead of a house which is disconnected from, and turned away from, the city, or a fortress- like house which is raised up one floor in order to provide light to the basement level, the house aspires to give ‘vitality to the streets through alternations in scale’. In fact, the Edge House II offers pedestrians a humane and non-monotonous form through its segmented volume and bold opening. A typical example, is the second floor study room – the central space of the house – which retreats from the property line between the terrace and follows the sharp angle of the site. A similar terrace also appears in the staircase located at the building’s northeastern corner. This staircase, located on the ‘hinge’ of the multi-sided ground, is not only a clever scheme allowing the efficient use of the land by transforming the lot from ‘a polygon to a square’, but, together with the study room, is a device used to communicate with and illuminate the street below. Of course, although somewhat passive, the west and south side aren’t much different. The form of the second-storey mass, which extends out slightly beyond the first floor, is designed to divide the volume and act like a canopy. Lighting has been installed beneath this canopy which makes the building appear as if it is floating and is a means for reducing its heaviness. It may be a bit of a stretch to expect that this canopy could replace the function of eaves, which are necessary to create areas of cool shade during the intensely hot Korean summers or to draw warm light deep into the house during fiercely cold winters.
In this way, the efforts made by the architects to alleviate the monotony of the building’s exterior are also reflected in the materials and details. Unlike buildings that attempt to appear friendly by using a variety of materials in a charming manner, this house only uses a bit of steel and glass with touches of stone (quartz). Instead, rhythm, depth and tension have been introduced into the elevation by alternating the vertical or horizontal direction of the quartz panels according to the mass, deepening the joints between the quartz panels, and inserting stainless steel panels into the building’s edges or into the area(s) where mass meets mass.
The Edge House II offers pedestrians a humane and non-monotonous form through its segmented volume and bold opening. A typical example, is the second floor study room - the central space of the house - which retreats from the property line between the terrace and follows the sharp angle of the site.
Extroverted or Introverted
In order to create the Edge House II’s signature image, the numerous volume studies that preceded the design began with the understanding of the interests and preferences of the family members, who would occupy the individual spaces. It goes without saying that a house is not simply the combination of rooms with different functions, and the proposition that a house must conform to the individual patterns of each family member’s life is by no means novel. However, the different tendencies of the users became a clue in locating the dividing lines between the private and public domains. For example, following the tendencies of the master and lady of the house, the second floor study is an exceedingly private space, yet it assumes an extroverted personality, while the first floor kitchen and living room are introverted, albeit situated in the public domain. With the exception of the small window in the kitchen, this living space is tightly shut-off from the road, and instead it is carefully angled towards the inner garden. A small garden is located in the southwest area, which was a natural consequence of the site’s conditions mandated by an architectural designation line on the northeastern side and a setback line on the southern side of the site. In particular, the free-standing wall that extends from the eastern wall makes the garden even cosier and provides a bit more privacy to the owner, adding a sense of visual stability in terms of the aspect ratio for pedestrians on the street.
Shared Exterior Lawn
The richness of the small and charming living room area leaves the memory of a special experience. Unlike other houses in Pangyo, where personal spaces like the master bedroom are placed on the second floor, in the Edge House II the relatively large master bedroom zone, with an attached dressing room and bathroom, is placed in the public space, the first floor, a requirement laid down by the client who was making preparations for his golden years. In terms of the floor plan, the spatial configuration of the living room area appears relatively narrow. However, because of the fact that within one space, diverse, functional spaces are either opened or closed to the outside, the personality of the space has been clarified and the sense of space that is actually felt is by no means shabby. Preserving the angled corner of the site, the living room in which a console table is placed has no windows, making it private and intimate. The modest kitchen by the wall, where a small window partitions the space off as a separate auxiliary kitchen, and helps to set apart the balanced space of the living room area without neglecting its function, whereas the dining room, in which a dining table that seats twelve has been placed, is connected to the entrance by a passageway and has an open view of the garden, playing a role similar to that of a guest room.
However, the eye-catching garden in front of the living room is limited in that it is not clearly demarcated. This is because the house’s garden is connected to a space which is shared by the lots on the southern edge. It is a considerably large, open space, consisting of three smaller gardens. As a result, the windows of the master bedroom and the son’s bedroom, located on the second floor, are refreshingly opened towards the south. The shared lawn space – created by a 2.5m setback from the site boundary line of two of the neighbouring lots as mandated by Pangyo’s District Unit Plan – opens a visual pathway and presents a luscious green space. Likewise, this shared space of the Edge House could become the communal gardens of the houses next door. The architects of iSM-Architects suggested that this was a ‘small miracle created by the conditions of the site’ and impressed upon us that the task of understanding the conditions of the shared space of the adjacent lots was important to the project. In addition, I strongly believe that such conditions are decisive factors in the effort to make the detached houses of Pangyo unique and distinct.
With the exception of the small window in the kitchen, this living space is tightly shut-off from the road, and instead it is carefully angled towards the inner garden.
Characterised by an exceptionally high floor, with a wide, open window, a two-storey study forms the central space of the Pangyo Edge House II.
The Identity of the Pangyo House
iSM-Architects has now built over ten houses in Pangyo. These architects, who have now become Pangyo’s housing experts, are simplifying their designs through the features of evolution, as shown in their portfolio of work. The demand to respond to the various living conditions of the family members on a site measuring about 231m2, and to create an efficient spatial layout based upon this, as well as to respect an appropriate spatial scale as integral to the city, is to say that the simplification of the results of the task, considering the privacy of the neighbouring community, shows that their technique of fine-tuning has evolved to a great extent. The architects of the project assess their Edge House II as a ‘house of small miracles that could occur’ as the result of the client’s demands and the conditions of the site and its surroundings. This is no different to saying that they contemplated the ways of satisfying private programmes while assuring ‘publicness’, or, in other words, ways to harmonize the public and private areas of each house within the constraints of the Pangyo housing complex. Vowing to locate the ‘identity of this generation of Pangyo houses’ at the juncture between an ‘obligation to protect individual privacy’ and the ‘responsibility to provide publicness’ through their latter work, I’m already curious about how the next Pangyo project by iSM-Architects will turn out.
Chung Kwi Weon completed his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Sungkyunkwan University School of Architecture and practiced architecture at Seoul Architecture. After working for professional Architecture magazines such as SPACE and Poar, he worked as editor-in-chief of architecture journal Wide AR. As the director of the Zedero Lab., he is currently involved in the planning and publishing of content related to Korean architecture and cities.
The second floor study room is an exceedingly private space, yet it assumes an extroverted personality.
Architect: Joongwon Lee (Sungkyunkwan University) + iSM-Architects (Kyung-A Lee)
Design team: Lee Hyomin, Hong Sungjoon
Location: 546-6, Pangyo-dong, Bundang-gu, Seongnam-si, Kyeonggi-do, Korea
Site area: 261.1m2
Building area: 130.27m2
Gross floor area: 303.73m2
Building scope: B1, 2F
Structure: reinforced concrete
Exterior finishing: granite, stainless steel panel, alum. curtainwall system
Interior finishing: wood flooring, painted GWB, wooden wall panels, classic brick
Structural engineer: TNI structural engineering
Mechanical and electrical engineer: TIEM Engineering
Construction: Dasan Construction Engineering
Design period: Nov. 2014 – Mar. 2015
Construction period: June 2015 – Jan. 2016
photographed by Park Youngchae | materials provided by iSM-Architects