UTAA COMPANY Architects
Kim Changgyun received a Bachelor of Architectural Engineering from University of Seoul and a Master degree from the identical university. He has participated in various works as well as architectural design and has accumulated practical experiences. He opened the office of UTAA COMPANY Architects in 2009. He has won the Young Architects Award which is hosted by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in 2011. He is interested in urban regeneration based on small and medium-sized buildings of everyday life and trying to put it into architecture.
The grey stone wall parallel to the road was longer and the red brick triangular roof was higher than I thought.
From the back road, Kyuwoozoo looks like a small single-storey house.
The Universe of the Verb Kyu
Kim Jongjin(professor, Konkuk University)
“The word used to indicate an object is a noun. One can say that one has a table, a chair, a house, a book, and a car. On the other hand, the word that is used to express processes and activity is a verb. It is used to say that ‘I am’, ‘I love’, ‘I desire’, ‘I hate’. However, there is a rising trend to express that one is in ‘possession’ of a certain action. The noun is used instead of the verb. However, it is an erroneous use of the language to say that one is in ‘possession’ of a certain action instead of a noun. This is because processes and activity is not something one possesses, but experiences.”
Erich Fromm observed in his book To Have or To Be that the number of usage of nouns over verbs has increased over the past centuries in various Western languages. This book was published in 1976, and now that it has been 40 years since then, one may wonder if the number of usage of verbs has been restored over that period.
What Fromm said can also be perfectly applied towards architecture. Architecture is built to contain ‘being’. A spatial form without ‘being’ is close to a pure sculpture art. ‘To be’, of course, is a verb. One may argue saying that when life comes to an end, it merely becomes a noun – a certain being – but the state of ‘being’ continues as someone who is dead. Unless we are made up of inorganic matter, we continue our ‘being’ in nature.
There are too many nouns being used in architecture that should approach ‘being’ as a verb. Living room, bedroom, dining room, kitchen, bathroom are all nouns. But in a ‘living room’, the word ‘living’ is more important than the ‘room’. The family activities such as resting, conversing, phoning, doing homework, reading the newspaper, watching the television, arguing, and amending relationships are the essence of a living room. Actions that are expressed via verbs are experiences. However, if the living room is predefined as a certain ‘something’ from the designing stage or the landlord’s perspective, and especially if this certain ‘something’ is based on an obsession with a certain form or style, then the living room becomes fixed as a noun. Space introduces kinds of behavior. The presence or lack of a chair, the question of how one is to sit, all greatly affect the behavior of its user. Other than the living room, this logic applies to every corner of the house. If there are children in the house, the house will be a ‘pandemonium’ of behaviors, and to reduce this space into a mere noun results in limiting the variety and the creativity of ways ‘to be’. After a long time, I was able to encounter again a house in which verbs are created.
The landscape of yard beneath bright and warm sunlight
There were various dimensions co-existing including the independent realm symbolised by the triangular roof, the dispersed public realm within the building, the intersection between the inside and the outside, the completely different landscape portrayed by the front and the back of the house.
Not long after leaving the busy streets near Jukjeon station, I made my way up a slightly inclin. The terrace house that I saw in the newspaper advert appeared in front of my eyes. The house Kyuwoozoo designed by Kim Changgyun was connected right next to a terraced houses. Unlike the photos that I received before this visit, the house looked bigger than I expected. The grey stone wall parallel to the road was long, and the red brick triangular roof was higher than I thought. Usually, houses look smaller than expected when visiting, but this was the opposite. I was able to learn why later.
The house is built on a difficult inclination. At a distance about 100 pyeong distance between the front and the back side of the site, there is an altitude difference of up to 8m. This must have been a difficult problem to resolve for the architect. The architect placed a small parking lot at the lower end close to the front road, and left the rest of the site as it is.
In order to reach the entrance of Kyuwoozoo, one has to climb up a set of external stairs. The external stairs allow for an opportunity to experience the unique landscape of the site. As one enters the building, one can see the yard across the glass windows, a cozy family space at the right, and the kitchen at the left. While there is a TV and a mini sofa in the family space, it is somewhat of an ambiguous size to call it a full living room. As one crosses over to the other side past the kitchen, one can see the ‘terrace café’. A grand piano, a wooden table, a rocking chair, a blanket, a cushion, and a photo frame were placed in the landscape yard of beneath bright and warm sunlight. At that time, the mother of the ‘Kyu’ sisters had opened the folding window fully, turning the terrace café into a semi-outdoor space. This place was named as the AV room on the floor plan, but it felt unfitting. One can tell that the furniture, furnishings, and the density of the atmosphere were focused primarily onto family activities.
As one moves up to the second floor, one can see a gathering space where the stairs, bench, and the storage space are connected in a ‘ㄷ’ shape, similar to the school designed by the Dutch architect Herman Hertzberger. It seemed as a nice place for one to have a chat with the children, or for the children to relax, hang out, and read books. On this floor where the ceiling reaches the triangular roof, the passage was connected from this space to the children’s room, to the parent’s room, and to the attic.
A unique structure that creates tension can be found within Kyuwoozoo. The collected form composed of the two triangular roofs harmonizes with the program composition of the couple and the children. However, regardless of the form factor of the house, the family space is dispersed throughout. There is no room specifically designated as the living room in this house. There is no huge flat-screen TV, speakers and a long leather sofa facing it, as they are commonly found in apartments. The small family space and the terrace café on the lower floor, and the ‘ㄷ’ shaped space and the attic on the upper floor act as the stage for all kinds of family activities. The house was well kept, but traces of its use could be found everywhere. In fact, traces of use are very important in a house. While it is common to have the photos of the clean and empty architectural landscape of an empty space in an architectural magazine before the tenants move in, it is truly inspiring to see the raw landscape of a house aging together with the tenant in harmony.
There is another entrance connected to the side of the main bedroom. It leads to a small backyard which is also connected to the back road. This house is unique in the sense that it is connected to two roads. When I went out by the back road and looked back at Kyuwoozoo, I realized why this house looked bigger than the image I received. From the photos that I had seen the background to this side of the house was left a strong impression. From the back road, Kyuwoozoo looks like a small single-storey house. Because of this, the 3-storey building that I faced at the front of the house seemed bigger than I assumed. There were various dimensions co-existing within Kyuwoozoo. The independent realm symbolized by the triangular roof, the dispersed public realm within the building, the intersection between the inside and the outside, the completely different landscape portrayed by the front and the back of the house.
There was just one disappointment. It was not a problem of Kyuwoozoo, but the problem regarding collectivity and publicness. On the one side of the house, there is a terrace house. On the other side, there was a house that seemed to be five-storeys high. Everyone builds their livelihood in their own ways. However, the disappointment that I felt from 1215 street in Bojeong-dong was that there was a lack of a harmonious landscape based on collectivity. This is a phenomenon that can be commonly observed in neighboring regions around Seoul where many detached houses have been built. It is difficult to erase the feeling that independent and closed worlds have gathered together without paying any attention to their surroundings. In this view, the back view of Kyuwoozoo is proposing the worth of community which can only be earned by sacrificing a portion of oneself, but it still remains within its own site.
The word used to indicate objects is a noun. The word used to express processes and activity is a verb. Kyuwoozoo also has a table, a chair, a house, a book, and a car. However, I hope that it will be an universe of the ‘Kyu’ family, an universe of the verb ‘Kyu’ that is filled with verbs like I am, I love, I desire, I hate, I …, you …, and we …. This is because a house is an experience.
Kim Jongin is currently lecturing on space design, formative space, and spatial aesthetics at the Department of Interior Architecture of Konkuk University Graduate School of Architecture, while also working in education, research, and design projects in tandem. He published his first book Spatial Empathy in 2011. After graduating from the AA School of Architecture and the Graduate Design School of Harvard University, he built his work experience in London and New York.
Though there is no room specifically designated as the living room, the family space is dispersed throughtout.
Architect: UTAA COMPANY Architects (Kim Changgyun)
Design team: Choi Byungyong, Shin Sanghyun, Kwon Hyukchul, Kim Youngjin
Location: 1215 Bojeong-dong, Kiheung-gu, Yongin-si, Korea
Site area: 347㎡
Building area: 124.84㎡
Gross floor area: 251.84㎡
Building scope: B1, 2F
Building to land ratio: 35.97%
Floor area ratio: 59.37%
Structure: RC, timber
Exterior finishing: old brick, cement brick, glass
Interior finishing: paint on gypsum board, wood flooring, tile
Structural engineer: Hikujo
Mechanical engineer: Kodam
Construction: Jayeonkwawuri (Park Wookjin)
Design period: Nov. 2015 – July 2016
Construction period: Aug. 2016 – May 2017
edited by Kim Narae | photographed by Chin Hyosook | materials provided by UTAA COMPANY Architects