Kim Hyundai + Tectonics Lab
Kim Hyundai is a founding partner of Tectonics Lab, a transdisciplinary design laboratory whose work revolves around architecture’s transitional relationship to urbanism, landscape, and product design. His research-based methodology embraces practice with theory, materialization with philosophy, and conceptualization with sensibility. Kim Hyundai holds a Master of Architecture from Princeton University and a Bachelor of Engineering from Yonsei University. He is a professor of Architecture at Ewha Womans University.
Portrait of Time
Choi Dunam(professor, Seoul National University)
The concept of time holds a special significance for architects. The architect is the designer of the everyday stages in the lives of those bound to a single point upon the axis of time, yet he simultaneously possesses a heartfelt desire to render this figuration eternal. The element of the eternal here signifies the natural and unhindered communication between the present, the past and the future.
‘Only the Brave can get the Beauty.’
The most contested issue concerning the Cheongun Residence is noted in the fact that the building returns to the ‘arch’, a tool which has established itself as one of the most important foundations in the ‘act of building’ and in the tectonic in architecture. The architect Kim Hyundai has used the arch, which has originally been part of the architectural vocabulary of classical, and in particular western, architecture, as an important medium to represent modern architecture, reigniting the proposition of ‘harmony between old and new’. The reason that we may give so much meaning to the fact of overlapping time, regardless of the object or the medium, may be because it responds to our subconscious yearning for eternity, and also because it is ‘an act that can not easily be accomplished’, warranting the accompaniment of a special motive. In the case of the Cheongun Residence, the architect explains his main motives in terms of its materials. We see the earnest endeavors made to build on this motive in the apparent struggle of the architect, who must have surrendered to the temptation of an arch after being commissioned to design a residence, and having selected brick as the main material, as the arch follows the familiarity and dignified qualities of brick like a needle to string. It is from his architecture, established through an abundance of sentiment within a sense of restraint, that we can see the unrelenting realisation of the layering of time.
A Criss-Cross Game
Put simply the charm of the spaces in the Cheongun Residence stems from the fact that, in spite of a physical environment that is symmetrical from right to left, the house allows one to taste a sense of unrestrained scandal. This radiates from an experience of the floor plan and section. While the plans of each floor are each regulated within or without the neatly organized nine square grid, the floor plan of the Cheongun Residence reveals an organic and liberal assortment of connections that render one unconscious of this man-made order. Also, a three-dimensional aspect reproduces as a much greater sense of space through the section, the dynamics between the horizontal and vertical axes of the Cheongun Residence are both active and complementary, to the point that the house could be described as a home designed according to its cross section.
Put simply the charm of the spaces in the Cheongun Residence stems from the fact that, in spite of a physical environment that is symmetrical from right to left, the house allows one to taste a sense of unrestrained scandal.
Duality at Work
The seeming simplicity of all things that carry a sense of depth are actually complex. These elements will appear to be clear-cut, but will demand greater reflection, including covert and indirect hidden metaphors, departing from figurative but abstract concepts, revealing newfound wisdom from that which is old. If one were to reveal what qualities are inherent in the Cheongun Residence, the architect would be showing us duality at work. The unfolding actions of each floor plan create a narrative, yet the sensitivity that emanates from the section that follows the passage of light is residential space in its truest sense; while the open internal space is rendered dynamic by the sounds of respiration, the pure nature of the exposed concrete is settled by a tranquil silence. The smoothness of the living room concrete wall, which turns into a curve after having been rejected as a slant, embodies a smile of tolerance, while the wooden handle on the second floor railing that faces this, give off a sense of the agony that accompanies resolution. The exposed concrete side imbues a sense of dignity to the construction, while the white interior walls exhibit the sense of clean attention to detail, and the sheer sense of height felt within the living room, which stands at two storeys tall, is put to rest in front of the tranquility of the firmly rising stairs. As such, the omnipresent duality that is exposed here and there is recognised within our reason, emotion and visual perception, maturing itself to The Cheongun Residence’s shortcomings result from the fact that the arch opening windows, which have been finished with thin frames, seem insufficient bear the burden of the tension ultimately become completed as a holistic architectural spatial experience. From such a perspective, the realisation of duality within the Cheongun Residence offers more of a sense of comfort within a sense of tension, budding within the harmony of diverse elements.
Beauty in Coexistence
The southern façade of the Cheongun Residence is the greatest measure by which we may tests the abilities of the architect in terms of composition, balance and harmony, and here, the size, scale, form and styles of the openings have been pushed into place and assembled in their exact form on the floor plan. However, in composite they reveal an implied sense of order within disorder through its visual representation and the interchanges within this hierarchy. The southern façade, from which we can feel a strange sense of tension from its unrestrained, freewheeling nature can be nominated as the finest asset of the Cheongun Residence, by which one feels the charm of how time has been layered. The Cheongun Residence’s shortcomings result from the fact that the arch opening windows, which have been finished with thin frames, seem insufficient bear the burden of the tension: the solid and the substantial gap which lies between the textures of the void has been finished with the dynamic profile of the arch. The task also remains to overcome the heterogeneous differences between the rear facade and the side facade from the overall elevation of the building.
Bravery and courage were thought to be important virtues among ancient Greek philosophers. To them, wisdom signified a certitude about that which was coveted, and bravery was the medium in the quest to achieve it. The essence of wisdom lies in the fact that those who know will act accordingly.
The Cheongun Residence reveals not only the wisdom and courage of the architect, but also a beautiful reward.
Choi Dunam is currently a professor at Seoul National University and obtained his Bachelors of Fine Art at the University of California at Berkeley and Masters of Architecture degree at Harvard University GSD. He won a Korean Architect Association Award with Saemteo Gallery in 1998. His major works include the Seojeong Gallery, residential houses in Buam-dong, Glass House, and Nonhyeon-dong Building.
The smoothness of the living room concrete wall, which turns into a curve after having been rejected as a slant, embodies a smile of tolerance, while the wooden handle on the second floor railing that faces this, give off a sense of the agony that accompanies resolution.
The Cheongun Residence’s shortcomings result from the fact that the arch opening windows, which have been finished with thin frames, seem insufficient bear the burden of the tension
Kim Hyunseok(principal, June Architects)
Research and Project
I first chanced upon the design of the Cheongun Residence a year and a half ago. Since its earliest stages, it conformed to the basic rule of a 3 by 3 grid, gradually completing itself by fleshing out its structure with more sculptural aspects. It is always difficult to work on small-scale projects according to pre-arranged architectural and spatial concepts or theories, and even more so with residential projects. This is because it is difficult to meet a client that will understand and accept such extraneous architectural attempts, notwithstanding the already pressing need to satisfy a variety of everyday needs in a small space.
Yet the Cheongun Residence was impressionable, as it had already absorbed a variety of functional demands through communication with the client and possessed a clear set of guiding architectural concepts from the onset. Moreover, it must be taken into account, and valued highly, that this architectural plan was worked upon in earnest and with profound concentration by researching the historic and contextual values that were necessary to the life of this house, as opposed to trying to realise something that will easily meet the eye or fulfill the design desires of the architect.
The Central Space: Novelty Stemming from the Old
Recently, one notes that the spaces that take the archetypal spaces of Korean architecture as a motif, such as the madang, toetmaru, daecheong, noomaru of the hanok, are frequently being discussed. However, it is quite uncommon to witness discussions of Renaissance era spaces taking place in the field of 21st century Korean architecture. While some may evaluate the essential space of the hanok, the madang, as acquiring greater value as a consequence of its significance to Korea’s unique culture, I personally feel that it is more important to see the values of the madang, not only within the context of the hanok, but as an element that has originated from universal values of all human civilizations. All over the world, within all historical contexts, homes that have housed a vacant external space at its centre have always existed an have been recognised for their worth.
I had previously thought ‘what are these random thoughts?’ when the architect explained the styles of renaissance spaces and western spaces during his description of the project in its early days. However, I eventually came to think that perhaps the values pursued by this architect are essentially those that are permanent and universal, able to embrace everything without being biased towards either the East, the West, the past, the present, or the future. As such, it may not be purely by chance that what is most notable about the projects is the sense of comfort and novelty that stems from the reinterpretation of universal values.
This is compounded by the material qualities of the exposed concrete that exist as sleek curves, the light that slowly emanates from the inner spaces, and the central space which firmly holds the centre together both horizontally and vertically without being too overwhelming.
‘Dignified’ was the word that first came to my mind when I first saw this house, which I had only previously seen in perspective drawings and models. I felt a novel sense of dignity, imperceptible in Korea of recent years, from the external stability of the overall mass from the outside, which, in turn, encases variations which gradually reveal themselves. This is compounded by the material qualities of the exposed concrete that exist as sleek curves, the light that slowly emanates from the inner spaces, and the central space which firmly holds the centre together both horizontally and vertically without being too overwhelming. In reality, designing a central space like this within a residential space would ordinarily bring about many functional limitations. This is because the composition, which acts as the base, has not been conceived from the notions of function but rather from a sense of placing value on the space itself. As a result, the house holds a relatively long and narrow master bedroom on the second floor, and the rooms on the third floor, which are composed in an ㅁ form, configure a composition that is highly different from recent domestic residential projects. I was curious about a client who could have accepted and even embraced such differences. I eventually met the client by chance, and it was then that the remaining puzzle piece fell into place. It seems that the client’s dignified lifestyle, embodied by his lifelong commitment to academia and to caring for those around him, allowed him to make the choice to willingly accept the case for the kind of dignified structures and spaces proposed by the architect, even while accepting great and small inconveniences. A novelty that overcomes the most recent architectural trends, trends which seem to prefer to chase after convenience, cost effectiveness, new materials and spectacular attempts. This novelty is the reason why we must take note of the architect Kim Hyundai.
Kim Hyunseok completed his B. A. degree in Yonsei University and started practice at AUM&LEE Architects & Associates. He majored in architecture and urban planning in Ecole d'Architecture de Paris La Villette and earned the DPLG. He worked for Atelier Lion Seoul after coming back to Korea in 2010, and has managed June Architects since 2012. He won the Young Architect Award in 2016.
It may not be purely by chance that what is most notable about the projects is the sense of comfort and novelty that stems from the reinterpretation of universal values.
Architect: Kim Hyundai (Ewha Womans University) + Tectonics Lab
Design team: Kim Sukyung, Kim Dasom, Lim Yoontaek, Yang Hyosil, Choi Soojin, Kang Sori
Location: Cheongun-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul, Korea
Site area: 553.85㎡
Building area: 163.26㎡
Gross floor area: 313.11㎡
Building scope: 3F
Building to land ratio: 29.48%
Floor area ratio: 56.53%
Structure: reinforced concrete
Exterior finishing: recycled brick, granite
Interior finishing: concrete, wood flooring, travertine, drywall
Structural engineer: Millenium Structure Inc.
Mechanical engineer: Woojin Inc.
Electrical engineer: Keukdong Inc.
Construction:: Nature & Environment Inc.
Design period: Apr. 2016 – Aug. 2016
Construction period: Sep. 2016 – Aug. 2017
edited by Park Sungjin | photographed by Kyungsub Shin | materials provided by Tectonics Lab