A Village of Teachers Envisioning a Community Based Life: KNU Village
University campuses will generally provide accommodation for the faculty. Yet, such situations will mostly involve setting apart a number of student dormitories, or placing a block of apartments at the edge of the campus. These conditions would lead to the facilities perceived as little more than temporary homes. Yet, an exciting initiative has surfaced, in which a faculty have come together to face the reality of building a residential community.
KNU Village (also known as Masi Village) is built within the social community of the Kyungpook National University staff. A total of 113 households have worked together over the past 14 years to autonomously establish a village, with the project reaching the completion phase in September 2015. The project garnered attention for providing a platform for many local architects. Ten months after its first residents have moved in, we take a look at what role architects play when it comes to building a village.
reported by Yoon Solhee│materials provided by Masi Village Master Plan Team│
photographed by Yoon Joonhwan (unless otherwise indicated)
To Live Together
Seongsu-dong and Munrae-dong in Seoul, Korea are well known for being naturally formed local communities by artists moving in to the area, while Heyri of Paju is known for being a local community that only accepts residents based on their professions, such as writers, artists, filmmakers and architects as residents, hence reinforcing the local identity. These local communities are known for forming a place in which people from similar backgrounds come together, leading the once desolate city to start becoming a place in which neighbours form bonds of friendship and dependence. KNU Village is a village that corresponds to the latter. Potential residents of this new village should be within the faculty of Kyungpook National University.
The majority of university campuses set aside residential space for their faculty, either within or nearby the campus. Such spaces aim to stabilize accommodation and heighten the social well-being of those working in education or research within the school. Yet, the majority of cases stop at being no more than temporary rental accommodation with the university acting as a landlord. Leasing periods range from a short period of time before the faculty finds something more permanent, to a three to five year leasing contract. Hence, KNU Village, which was built together by the faculty of Kyungpook National University, is an unprecedented case of faculty housing. The faculty voluntarily set out to find a plot of land to live on near the school, built houses there, and formed a village. Their chosen residential form evolved as permanent housing, in a positive case that is based on the common will. The former chair of the union Sohn Jaekeun (former professor, Dept. of Agricultural Economics, Kyungpook National University) said that ‘There was a greater sense of mutual understanding among us, as we had come from the same group of people. Many professors naturally agreed with gathering together in a village following as the Campus Development Plan.’
This idea was first conceived in 1998, when the university was realizing its ‘2010 Comprehensive Campus Development Plan’, from the standpoint that the majority of faculty at the university were living in Daegu at the time. The housing union was formed with Sohn Jaekeun as the union leader in 2002. Ultimately 113 family units confirmed their decision to join. The union sought out a number of potential sites, and finally collectively acquired 227,000m2 of forest land at San 132, Masi-ri, Hyoryeong-myeon, Gunwi-gun, Gyeongsangbuk-do, Korea in April of 2003. The site lies about 30 mins away from the university by car.
The funds for the groundwork of the project was supported by the Rural Village Development Policy, which is an initiative carried out by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs. The union was officially established in 2002, and the village took 14 years to reach completion. The village could be completed in the way it had originally been visualized, after an arduously long process due to a clearly defined common ground. The project was led by people who shared a common set of values, and they involved numerous local architects in the project to establish and follow their professional advice and guidelines. The project has become an exemplary case even among other rural village development policy projects.
Courtesy of Gunwi-gun Office
Residential Design Based on Typologies
11 Architects from the Daegu area participated in the project. The project was the biggest rural village development policy project to date, with a total of 113 families taking part. The roads were used to divide the site into 11 sectors with 10 households in each, with each architect designing the houses for the 10 families in their designated sector. The project provided a rare opportunity for a number of regional, rather than Seoul-based architects, to gather together to create a common result. Such opportunities were brought about by the active participation of architects. The plan at the start of the project was to designate one architectural studio to design all of the houses in steel house type housing. The turn in events was brought about by the proposal of Lee Jeongho (professor, Kyungpook National University). He believed that the project had the potential for Daegu-based architects to bring their ideas together and develop them. Hence, he widened the scope of architect participation by persuading the housing unions and the previously chosen architectural studios. Lee Jeongho said that ‘I wanted to pursue the idealistic but simple process in which a local project would be carried out by local people.’
11 architects, including Lee Jeongho who took the position of general coordinator, came together to form the masterplan team and the sector team. The Masterplan team included Kim Duk-koo (principal, Architecture office IDO), Kim Hyunjin (principal, SPLK Architects & Partners), Cho Mantae (principal, MIR Architects & Associates), while the Sector team included Kim Taeyoon (principal, AM Architects), Kim Hong-geun (principal, ADF Architects), Baik Seungki (principal, Architecture Design Studio him), Shim Jaeik (principal, Architecture Studio SIM&LEE), Lim Bongsoo (principal, Namyang Architects), Jung Choongsub (principal, Mukyung Architects), Choi Sangdae (principal, Hunter Architects).
In the same way that architectural design guidelines are provided for new development sites, KNU Village also produced a set of guidelines to establish a common code for the appearance of the village. Plots of land were categorized as either uphill or downhill plots according to the degree of the land in regard to the adjacent road. According to the conditions of the categorized plots, main entrances, the composition of service yards etc were each differently applied. In particular, the design of individual households required that the design follow an existing site plan. This meant that a prototype had been established. By surveying future residents, three types of design were established, including 82m2, 99m2 and 132m2, with the architects of each sector being given the autonomy to add variations to these designs according to the resident’s demands. A prototype was also released, which aimed to accomplish speedy construction, the rational use of materials, and the reduction of design and construction costs by modeling DIY housing or modular housing. Lee Jeongho specified that the prototype concept had been applied to the housing design for two reasons. The first reason was to unify the appearance of the houses in the village. The second was to reduce the high engineering costs due to the site sitting on a slope.
The main task for the masterplan team was to design the prototype. Cho Mantae explained that he ‘wished to complement the shortcomings of living in an apartment as a form of communal housing, through the design of the detached houses.’ On the other hand, sector architects focused on the designs of each individual home. Their task involved applying the right amount of variations in accordance with the demands of the residents, based on their chosen prototype. Entrances were put in place according to the form of the site, as well as the zoning of restrooms or the directions of stairwells.
The architects also opened the exhibition ‘MASI 111+11’ to spread awareness about the experiment of the KNU Village to the public, by presenting the basic vision for the village, just before construction began in 2012. The exhibition functioned as motivation for the project to actively take place, as architects, related researchers and union members, who all tried to share a common understanding by making site plans and building architectural models.
The roads were used to divide the site into 11 sectors with 10 households in each, with each architect designing the houses for the 10 families in their designated sector.
The Need for a More Specific Vision
Yet it was regrettable that the site revealed little of the significance of such a community, despite having built up such a stable common will and strategic process. While the community did succeed in standing up on its own two feet, there seemed to be a thorough lack of a common foundation among the realized architecturally designed spaces. If the village had first been conceived from a desire to live together, it is necessary that the village be built upon a common discussion by which residents can establish their common goals. Moreover, it may have been possible for new architectural experiments to have taken place, in consideration of public space and individual homes, if each sector had been planned with such ideas in mind. This could include research spaces that take into account the professional characteristics of school faculty or spaces where many different academic fields could share their findings. Currently, the KNU Village only houses residential homes, and has, for now, postponed discussions on programmes that could build a common goal. The attempt to apply a prototype to each house was an appropriate way of forming the scenery of the village as the project accelerated, yet such attempts stopped short at the creation of a unified landscape. Also, as a number of individual homes that diverged from the prototype began to emerge, the sense of pervasive unity throughout the village became unclear. While the balcony space had been limited to 1m, for the objective of preserving the slope, many residents took action after construction was completed, by additionally attaching decks or placing sheets over the courtyard space in the second floor. If such situations are to continue, it is likely that the sense of unity intended at the start of the project, as well as the form of each project will start to become distorted. To such an idea, Kim Hong-geun said ‘that the situation is such that the site is starting to become something else other than the intentions of the architects’, and he pointed out that ‘it was actually too ambitious to believe that such extremely limited framework would accommodate all the needs of residents, without having really considered their individual characteristics.’
It is important that a proactive approach for establishing the specific framework for the qualitative and sensitive qualities of the space is taken on for the community. With plans to establish communal space such as the maintenance facility and the village hall, it is important to find elements that can attribute to the communal values of those living in such a specialized community. Moreover, the profession of teaching and researching itself carries great potential for building a synergy effect when it is met with other professions. Establishing detailed guidelines for public space could become an organic catalyst for the convergence of ideas between different academic fields.
The challenge of crafting villages is an issue all too familiar to architects that are studying the relationship between neighbours, society and the city. It is possible for architects to take this opportunity to expand the scope of their work, but only if they are ready to consider and propose the necessary conditions needed for architects to help villages organically gain their own sense of vitality.
The project provided a rare opportunity for a number of regional, rather than Seoul-based architects, to gather together to create a common result.