The story of Seoulites living in Crevice
It feels like an alleyway that I used to hang out in when I was young.
Crevice-a small piece of land in a big city- is the promise of a new opportunity.
Finding ways to live in a house in the city
The couple was born and raised in Seoul. They spent most of their lives in a popular apartment complex. But they both hated living there.
“I used to go to my grandma’s house in the countryside. It was a mud house by the railroad. They were just small moments, but the memories still linger. That house was close to my heart,” said the husband.
“I hated the fierce competition in the apartment complex. The neighbors would brand the children with stereotypes. I started to think that where you lived and who you met defined your life,” says the wife.
The couple wanted their elementary school-aged daughter to live in a different environment. They also needed a space that matched their lifestyles working in the field of pop art. They wanted their home to be closer to their workplace and to childcare. They couldn’t move far from the city.
The couple soon became interested in houses in Seoul. They rented a 1970s-era house in Seorae Village, Bangbaedong. They looked for a hanok in Seochon and Bukchon that they could remodel.
Two problems quickly surfaced: their budget and parking space. Areas with convenient transportation and infrastructure were already too expensive, regardless of the conditions of the house. The prices for hanok were already skyrocketing, and the idea of remodeling a traditional house was quickly off the list. It was hard enough to find the materials to maintain the main structure of the house, and even if the couple could find such materials, the expense would far exceed their budget.
The other problem was parking. To work and raise a child, the couple needed at least one car. The hanok in the old areas of the city had no parking spaces and were inaccessible to cars. The word was out that regulations on diesel cars would gradually be tightened.
Searching for a way to address these two problems, the couple found an old cottage in the middle of an alley on 56.20m² of land in Cheonyeon-dong, Seodaemun-gu. It was close to where the wife worked and there was an elementary school for the daughter. Public transport was just a short walk away and there was a 6m-wide entrance road for parking. It was only a matter of budget and of finding a space that would fit their family.
“I was worried for many reasons. The lot was extremely small, and we each wanted a space for our own purposes. We realized we needed professional help from an architect,” says the wife.
Taking on the limits of narrow lot houses
The couple ended up choosing ThEPluS Architects (CEO, Hanjun Cho) because of “Horn”, an office building in Seokyo-dong that the architects had created for publishing company Galmuri. In working on Horn, Cho and his group managed to create 133.12m² of space on a 63.71m² site.
After visiting the building and looking around the site for over half a day, the husband decided to work with ThEPluS Architects.
That was when the problems began for the architects. New measurements revealed an error in the original site measurements. The lot was smaller than the couple had thought, and the clients had a laundry list of demands.
The husband wanted to have his own soundproof workspace where he could concentrate on his work. His wife, a pop artist, needed a storage space for costumes and make-up tools. The couple also asked for an attic for their daughter and a space for a live-in nanny. Aside from the basic spaces that a three-person family would normally require–two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, a living room, a study and a parking spot–the clients demanded much more space.
Discussions between Cho and the clients led to the decision to create a vertical space connected through skip floors and to make a workspace by digging underground. Because the building behind the site was 2m taller than the site for Crevice, it was deemed best to make five stories above ground and include a basement.
A step to expand space, a crevice to connect the senses
Crevice was designed to give a sense of expansion by alternating the spaces 1m apart to the left and right without dividing up the space on each floor. That is, two halves of the space are connected side by side to give a sense of expansion. The stairs were built on one side through skip floors, with brake floors installed to support vertical movement. This technique is very common in designing narrow lot houses.
The windows have been carefully placed to take into account lighting, ventilation, and privacy. But perhaps most distinctive in the design of this house is the arrangement of the “crevice” connecting each floor. It helps the family create bonds by connecting each space and by providing stability without creating a feeling of stuffiness or disconnectedness. More importantly, the crevice creates an aesthetically pleasing space, suggesting a new solution in the design of narrow lot homes.
Vertical living in a crevice of the city
We asked the clients and the architect what this house meant to them. The client husband said it helped him recall his childhood in the middle of Seoul. After only a few days, their daughter had already made friends in the neighborhood and was next door visiting one at the time of the interview. That was exactly what the couple wanted: emotional communion. To them, this house had made it possible to live a sensible life while creating special memories.
The architect says that this kind of lifestyle and memory creation are “only possible when people accept a vertical lifestyle. To live in a narrow lot house, you have to understand the advantages and disadvantages of a vertical space over a flat one.” He also added that it is important to consult with the architect before choosing the site in order to create a more effective space.
At MAGAZINE BRIQUE, we are curious to hear the stories created by the family living in this house, a family who found a crevice in the city and who created another crevice to bring the outside in, connecting the two spaces.
Written by MAGAZINE BRIQUE