Nam-dong Butterfly House
Han Hyeyoung, a principal of HH Architects, is treating projects with curiosity and has a greater interest in smaller rather than big ones, old rather than new ones, surroundings as opposed to the centre. She is running the studio through the idea of architecture that originates from the very minor objects and environment of everyday daily life. She has experienced architecture firms such as One O One architects, iArc Architects, and Office of Contemporary Architecture. After the working, she studied for her masters degree in architectural design at the Polytechnic University of Madrid by staying in Spain. She recently lectured at the Graduate School of Architecture of Kookmin University and Wonkwang University. HH Architects is currently working on multiple projects related to architecture, interior design, and furniture design.
Unlike the name of the house, the first impression of the house at the front is more like a white boat that is about to ascend to heaven.
Reason of a Form
Cho Sungik (professor, Hongik University)
Pointed: this was the first impression of Nam-dong Butterfly House. The architect of this house named it ‘Butterfly House’, as its plan looks like a butterfly with outspread wings. However, this can be seen only from the air and the first impression of the house at the front is more like a white boat that is about to ascend to heaven. The sharp bow of the boat is heading towards the beautiful pine forest in front of the site. While most of the houses in the town display a relative calmness, Nam-dong Butterfly House takes a graceful and sleek posture as if it lightly steps forward with open arms. Why is this house designed like a pointed butterfly?
‘At first I prepared two proposals: one is a rational plan with box shape, and the other was a bold plan with oblique lines, which has now been realised. I was a bit surprised by the client’s decision, the latter,’ the architect said that the selected plan was realised without major changes.
The house is located in a village about 10 minutes’ drive from the center of Yongin-si.
The residential complex was developed by a private real estate development company under the slogan, ‘garden suburb near a city’. As the system limited the developer’s role to only planning lots and selling them, giving the residents a chance to select their own architects, this provided opportunities to create unique houses. About 60 houses out of 80 were built in this way. However many clients chose to build a typical country house, enthralled by the advertisement, ‘Life in a southern France style house’, and this has resulted in attracting local people’s attention to the unique form of Butterfly House.
Recalling the moment in which she suggested the initial plan, Han commented that ‘Above all, my client was fascinated by the unique form of the house’. Aside from this, her explanation that the butterfly-shaped plan had additional merit in blocking the gaze of neighbours was crucial to giving the client the required confidence. Although houses can secure a larger gap between each other than in the downtown area, this village is regulated by 20% of building to land ratio, and the visual privacy between neighbours still remains a concern. In fact, the layout of buildings in this area shows that the majority of houses have a long horizontal plan in order to secure their frontal views. In other words, they have enough space at the front and back, but they are close to their neighbours on both sides. Butterfly House, opening its arms at a gentle angle towards the yard, has an appropriate form that can naturally block the gaze of its neighbours. The client couple were said to have been greatly enthused to hear her presentation about the rational reasons behind the butterfly shape which can better protect privacy and the protruded space of triangular plan on the second floor which can accept the light from due south, with additional explanation that two rooms for two children is placed on both wings of the butterfly plan respectively.
Many clients chose to build a typical country house, and this has resulted in attracting local people’s attention to the unique form of the house.
I met the clients of Butterfly House. ‘Both of our parents worried that the house was too sharp when they saw the building model for the first time. Now, they invite their friends over just to boast about it. We also asked our friends of their opinions, and all of them said they liked butterfly design. They simply answered, ‘This is cool’. They don’t mind because they don’t have to live here (Laughs)’.
When I asked if acute angles in these interior space causes any inconvenience in one’s quality of life, they answered, ‘I have become more satisfied with the space after living there’. Although I asked them the question as I looked at a desk placed at an awkward angle in a triangular study, an unexpected answer came back. They said the kitchen is the most satisfying space in the house.
The kitchen is close to the junction of the two wings in the butterfly-shaped plan. I looked around when standing in front of the sink, as suggested by the client. I could see the garden and forest beyond the valley seen through the window. If you look up while cooking in the kitchen, you can enjoy the full panorama of nature. The kitchen has a good view of the living room, as it is two steps higher than the living room. The second floor also comes into sight through the staircase placed along the angle of folded wings.
The wife, looking all around, stated ‘I can see every corner of house from here. I can see my children playing under the stairs and even in the pool in the garden’. Han added that ‘it was important to make a situation which enables us to observe the children’s activity all the time. This allows you to face your family while working in the kitchen’. Thanks to the sharp shape of the house, with its acute and obtuse angles, the kitchen of Butterfly House became the focal point in the sights at various points in the house, much like a control tower can observe the taking off and landing of planes.
Butterfly House, opening its arms at a gentle angle towards the yard, has an appropriate form that can naturally block the gaze of its neighbours.
Let’s go back to the first question. Why did the architect design a house with acute angles like a butterfly? According to the architect and clients who looked around the house with me, the reasons can be summarized as the following. First, the architect referred to the taste of the public who favour unique forms. Secondly, she attributed it to the quality of light and the view. This could be read in a diagram proving that the form was derived from its light and view. Third, she additionally explained that it was adapted to the shape of the site divided by the developer and V-shaped retaining wall on the rear side. Fourth, the clients chose the beauty of the unique shape for a detached house, and fifth, they were delighted to know that butterfly’s two wings symbolise their two children.
However, the client’s husband who remained mostly silent throughout added the most impressive thing I heard when we had nearly finished the visit. ‘The best thing is that this house created a space where my wife can see everything and my children can go everywhere’.
Designing a detached house that reflects the request for universal convenience and a desire to own something unusual. The various styles of houses in a newly developed village for detached houses have resulted from the choice somewhere between these two values. When the balance tips in favour of uniqueness, it is the exterior of the building that most easily reveals the desire of the architect and the client.
When a house is built and occupied, new values are added. Children enjoy spending time in the narrow corner under the stairs instead of in their rooms. Eye contact among family members, invisible in the plan, emerge in the 3D space. The connection makes them feel at ease, sensing each other. While the exterior of a house lends the first impression, such realisation can be found through living there. I would like to call this ‘a sense of life’, a kind of important value found in a good house. Such feeling and value of the house, though unexpected, can be realised over time. The importance and meaning of form, light, view, land, and the symbolic qualities on which architects and clients spend a lot of time in the design process, used to change easily once occupied by residents. Even if architects establish the concept of form with great effort, it becomes helpless or vigorous through the sense of life discovered by its residents.
The triangular room with acute angles easily leads to waste of space, and it is not suitable for ready-made furniture. Beyond all these reasonable perspectives, the most brilliant achievement of the Butterfly House was to realise a sense of life that is given by shape and space by its acute angles. The conductor of the house is set up on the podium and a space for the family’s orchestra is created.
Then, why didn’t the architect design the house by using a sense of life as the main concept from the beginning? Let’s reverse the design process of the Butterfly House. What if the client and architect aimed to design ‘a house where the mother plays the role of control tower and discerns every corner’ from the beginning? The process will make wall of acute angles along the sightline of the mother in front of the sink, adjust the level of the floors, situate the furniture, and finally arrange rooms. And then, view and sunlight will be finely tuned to the eyelines inside, and finally determining the shape of this building. Instead of suggesting two alternatives, she would have been able to shape the form slowly through the design process. As the result of this process, a butterfly flies up towards beautiful forest and a boat moves forward. Or it may be star-like shape that is determined by crossing eye lines of family members from various points inside.
However, the form does not matter in any way if it is created to realise a sense of life. This is because a form can only gain in vitality when it finds values associated with life over time. How is the form of a house related to our life? Butterfly House throws out this question.
Cho Sungik, the founding principal at TRU Architects, investigates the interplay between architectural design and urban research as a professor at the Hongik School of Architecture. He received his Masters degree in Architecture from the Yale School of Architecture and Seoul National University. A Seoul City Public Architect, Cho serves on committees and panels for urban planning and architectural design reviews in Seoul.
Thanks to the sharp shape of the house, with its acute and obtuse angles, the kitchen of the house became the focal point in the sights at various points in the house.
The most brilliant achievement of the house was to realise a sense of life that is given by shape and space by its acute angles.
Architect: HH Architects (Han Hyeyoung)
Design team: Lee Soomin, Kim Shinhye
Location: 286-14 Nam-dong, Cheoin-gu, Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do, Korea
Programme: single family house
Site area: 448㎡
Building area: 89.18㎡
Gross floor area: 268.01㎡
Building scope: B2, 2F
Building to land ratio: 19.9%
Floor area ratio: 36.22%
Exterior finishing: stucco, exposed concrete
Interior finishing: water paint, silk wallpaper, marmoleum, hardwood floor Collaborated design: EWOO ARCHITECT INC.
Structural engineer: thekujo
Mechanical engineer: Jusung M.E.C.
Electrical engineer: Hangil Engineering
Construction: Seers Design Group
Design period: Aug. 2015 — Feb. 2016
Construction period: Mar. — Oct. 2016
Client: Choi Boyoung
edited by Yoon Solhee | photographed by Namgoong Sun
materials provided by HH Architects