VT Haga Escape
fig.architects + eggplant factory
Kim Daeil received his bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Seoul National University. After working at Baum Architects and Atelier 17 Architects&Associates, he established fig.architects with Kim Hanjoong and Lee Juhan in 2015. Currently he is the principal of fig.architects.
Lee Juhan received his bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Seoul National University. After working at Heerim Architects&Planners and Samsung C&T, he established fig.architects with Kim Daeil and Kim Hanjoong in 2015. Currently he is the principal of fig.architects and adjunct professor at Gachon University.
Kim Hanjoong received his bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Seoul National University. After working at Baum Architects and KYWC architects, he established fig.architects with Kim Daeil and Lee Juhan in 2015. He now runs his own office, ground architects, and works as director of basementworkshop, the experimental group for manufacture.
Choi Hanme received his bachelor’s degree from Hongik University. After working at Baum Architects, he has been in charge of space design at eggplant factory since 2013.
The Epochal Symbol between Settlement and Nomadism
Yang Gun (principal, GAU Architecture)
The Jeju Phenomenon
Due to the influx of cultural immigrants over the past few years, the population in Jeju has expanded exponentially. As a result, the influx of new cultural approaches and lifestyles has introduced a number of potential triggers for conflict with the original residents of Jeju. We understand this as the ‘Jeju Phenomenon’, which measures the contemporaneity of Jeju. This difference also emerges when trying to define the particular cultural genealogy of Jeju culture. One can try to pinpoint the identity of Jeju culture by acknowledging the permanent, unchanging and biological standpoint of a ‘gene’. The other approach is to interpret the overarching cultural phenomenon in Jeju – regardless of whether it had changed from its original character or not – as a ‘meme’, a cultural gene. The difference between these views act as a catalyst to release various identities of Jeju. Jeju architecture and the future of this city now faces the epochal task of developing better insight into coexistence with such cultural diversity.
The Coastal and Mountainous Town of Haga-ri
In spite of this hopeful outlook, the cultural immigration that has infiltrated the inner parts of the town in search of the unique properties of Jeju has brought about a storm of development, and the destruction of the original scenery is now quite common in every part of Jeju. The Olle Trail and the Uldam, in the central parts of the town, have by themselves the worth to broach discussions for registration as Regional Cultural Heritage sites. Furthermore, traditional homes, the spatial composition of the town, and the mill grinders at the centre of towns are so well preserved that they are frequently used as educational materials for understanding and introducing folk culture and traditional Jeju architecture to outsiders. In the Haga-ri of today, however, newly-built cafes fill up space on the outskirts of the town, and the tranquil and vertical landscape is being disturbed due to overscaled apartment houses. Still, with Halla-san in the south and a distant view of the sea in the north, and with the Gonae peak – a symbolic climb in the Aewol region – as background, with the historical Yeonhwa pond at front, this Jeju-like scenery has been retained. From the assumption that such surrounding human and natural environments would have affected the architects in their planning, we shall now look into their architecture.
Each section within the wall maintains a self-centredness, through the concrete and fully determined height of the Jeju stone walls, but they also remain tightly knitted together.
Encounter on the Road
I had already met the VT Haga Escape in the form of a blueprint at the award exhibition of the 2017 Jeju Architecture Culture Contest. Even as a blueprint the systematic organisation of space, most clearly demonstrated by the walls made of Jeju stone left me with a significant impression. I probably received it as the exemplary work of a young architect that reflects the regional character of Jeju architecture, through careful research of the local town’s composition and the indoor/outdoor private home structure common to traditional houses in Jeju. However, despite the elegance of the project, I had some doubt over the discontinuity and double-natured quality of the residence in the annex building, designed according to an open plan and the two buildings at the entrance designed in the manner of an object.
Between Settlement and Nomadism
The VT Haga Escape lies upon a small hill that overlooks the Yeonhwa pond. Its entire facade is not revealed upon one glance. The cafe workroom with a vaulted roof is the first thing that greets visitors, and the architectural connection between the small-scale roof and the Jeju stone wall (Uldam) is powerful. If one walks along the wall, one is naturally led into the first building (House A). The height of the wall is a clue that one can use to trace how the architect is dealing with the relationship that exists between the public and the private. While it is not possible to look past the wall, it still manages to fulfill a sense of continuity by not being too intimidating in terms of height. Furthermore, the main site is situated a little lower than the walking trail. It has been developed to deal with the strong winds, and is only possible in soil that permeates water—a unique feature of Jeju traditional houses. Each section within the wall maintains a self-centredness, through the concrete and fully determined height of the Jeju stone walls, but they also remain tightly knitted together. Only the bedroom and the kitchen have been roofed and are therefore interiorized, but the house reaches its fullest realisation in its non-hierarchical organisation. On the other hand, the house (House C) by the big road is different from the previous two houses. It appears to be ignoring the two houses (House A, B), with its back turned and facing the wide field and distant seascape. The concrete structure, open to the sea, is alien to Jeju island. Following an open plan, the intention to open the front as much as possible and to hide the structure with the frames of windows and doors is especially striking. The openness when one climbs to the rooftop, following the external staircase, evokes a state of weightless. Furthermore, by carpeting the rooftop with sand, one’s line of sight becomes connected to the distant sea horizon. It offers an escape from everyday space. It does not depend on the historicity or the locational conditions of the site, as it claims to be a temporary place of rest for the modern day nomad.
A Collage of the Non-Quotidian
VT Haga Escape is not a residence for settling immigrants but a rest facility for tourists to experience a sense of the non-quotidian. In this instance, the line between settlement and nomadism disappears. The scenery of the traditional town of Jeju, the feeling of being isolated from the world, the foreign images of a sandy shore floating in the middle of a mountain, all come together to form a collage that presents a vision of the non-quotidian and thus achieving the original purpose of architecture.
It feels like I have found the answer to a doubt that I had at the award exhibition. The architect was suggesting an answer to the coexistence of the contemporaneous Jeju phenomenon. Despite this, however, it is disappointing that the architecture has been left segregated and unable to form a coherent relationship with its surrounding environment.
Yang Gun graduated from Yonsei University’s department of Architectural Engineering and received his doctoral degree on Architecture from the same university. He worked as an adjunct professor for 10 years since 2006 at Jeju University’s architectural department, and he is currently leading Group of Architecture & Urbanism while also serving as a member of Urban Planning at Jeju Special Self-Governing Province. He has won awards such as the Jeju-si Architecture Award and the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province Architecture and Culture Grand Prize with his numerous works. As for his recent works, there are the Tamna Culture Plaza Observatory, SIndo-ri Detached House for N, and others.
A Time of Confinement and a House of an Enclosed Realm
Kim Joowon (principal, Hausstyle)
This house is one step apart away from a traditional architectural construct. I was greeted by a place that exists self-sufficiently without depending on vocabularies such as space, form, material, light, time, or context—all which have been used traditionally to read architecture. There were no fancy acts of forcefully constraining or dispersing the natural light that is already present throughout the space. It was difficult to find an impressive form or a constructive logic of space—only the stone wall made of Jeju stones recalls the location in Jeju. The most remarkable thing was that nothing was done towards traditional analysis of the site, such as its direction, axis, landscape, or the context of its location. One may call it a completely contemporary approach that distinguishes itself from an ideal of modernity. Ironically, an architecture that is not mindful of its surroundings has a greater influence over its surroundings.
Absolute Isolation Vol. 1
The interest of the architect was fixed on the programme. The question that arose before the design was: can it truly become a vision of Jeju, that specific place they were looking for by leaving the city? It was as if the architect considered the essence of a trip to be to allow oneself a time of confinement, and the architect drove this space forward to face absolute isolation. Putting behind the academic, architectural logic of continuous time and sequencing, the architect separated the entire duration of the trip into segments. Every act is contained in a segmented space, isolated from other acts in time. This is the hidden story of the dryly-named house type 1 (House A, B), which reads as if it refuses to belong to any other interpretations.
Absolute Isolation Vol. 2
If the first house erected its interior by rolling up the walls, the second house, house type 2, constructs its interior by spreading out the walls in a bold manner. It is a house of a closed realm that defiantly turns around and faces an indifferent landscape, unwilling to look back at the path it has passed. We now live in an era in which the image is everywhere prevalent, in which an elegantly composed space or a beautiful roofline aligned to a neighbouring field is no longer considered worthy of praise. From this perspective, the bold decision of the building owner – more than the architect – is remarkable. The large piece of agricultural land that was left behind as it was cut off from the roads – the piece of land that the architect refers to as the private farm – was a piece of land that could have been used anytime to bring profit, and was given up for the sake of the absolute isolation of the tourist that stays for one night in house type 2 (House C). By closing off the development potential of this land it guarantees the perfect freedom that only an isolated individual can experience. Isn’t this anything but the act of entering a closed realm?
Other than the two necessary section spaces, the first house (House A, B) has placed all living spaces outdoors.
These spaces are not a yard attached to the inner space, but planned for living.
Time in the Wild
Humanity entered into civilization by discovering an inner space. Living outside is an act of anti-civilization, and because of this it becomes an attractive escape for the civilized man.
Other than the two necessary section spaces, the first house (House A, B) has placed all living spaces outdoors. These spaces are not a yard attached to the inner space, but planned for living. The intention is obvious when the yard right next to the kitchen is innocently named the dining hall.
The second house (House C) destroys all divisions between spaces, and by making the division between inner and outer space more ambiguous it hopes to achieve a similar effect to the first. This suspicion is confirmed when looking at the raw wooden material and stone fences used in the inner space—materials that seem too rough to be used indoors. I wonder if the architect planned for a time in the wild that would contemplate civilization and how certain spaces continue to exist outside of civilization?
VT Haga Escape is not a residence for settling immigrants but a rest facility for tourists to experience a sense of the non-quotidian.
An Ideal that Confronts Reality
Considering that this house is not meant for someone who lives a normal life, the novelty of the space may well become its defining note, if all these functions are put into practice. Days accumulate to form years, and one may be able to live a day in a space like this, but one would not last two days, let alone months or years. The problem arises when a way of life becomes fixed in the name of universality and tradition. By looking back at our daily lives and reflecting upon the actions we take in that moment, it allows us to remove the unnecessary things and retrieve certain things that we have lost out of inconvenience. A day spent in this house would probably allow one to look back over the days that have added up to form their lives. The person who choses to stay in this place will step over that time with a lightness of step, rediscovering the wilds that have been buried under modern values like convenience and efficiency. They will leave behind meanings, relationships, and calculations after meeting oneself here, alone.
Kim Joowon graduated from Yonsei University’s department of Housing Environmental Design and received his doctoral degree from Yonsei University’s department of Architectural Engineering. He was awarded with the Newcomer Award and the Association Award from the Korean Society of Interior Architects/Designers in 2003 and 2006 respectively. With 24 other architects in 2012, he also began a project titled ‘Happy House-building Project’ that supports a sound way of living, and is currently working as a general coordinator at HausStyle. As for some of his major works, there are the Railside 9-pyeong House, the House of Mountain · Field · Wind, the Going through Thick and Thin Together, the Earth-floored House, and others.
Architect: fig.architects (Kim Daeil, Kim Hanjoong, Lee Juhan) + eggplant factory (Choi Hanme)
Design team: Kim Donghyun, You Jimin (fig.architects) / Chung Heejin, Seo Mungyeong (eggplant factory)
Location: 184, Haga-ro, Aewol-eup, Jeju-si, Jeju-do, Korea
Programme: single house, neighbourhood living facility
Site area: 1,649m2
Building area: 416.58m2
Gross floor area: 400.64m2
Building scope: 1F
Building to land ratio: 25.26%
Floor area ratio: 24.3%
Exterior finishing: exposed concrete, Jeju-stone
Interior finishing: exposed concrete, Jeju-stone, sliced veneer, paint
Structural engineer: Teo Structure
Construction: HAMA factory (Lee Seungyoul)
Mechanical engineer: timetech engineering
Electrical engineer: SHINHAN Electrical Engineering Co., Ltd.
Landscape design: GREENSALADFLOWER
Styling: Charida studio
Design period: Aug. 2015 – Mar. 2016
Construction period: May 2016 – June 2017
Client: Jeong Cheol
edited by Park Semi | photographed by Lee Seunghui | materials provided by fig.architects