The Hanok: A Very Special House
As home technology surges forward, and architects try to find new and exciting interpretations of what a house can be, there is a parallel trend in design that aims to retain and recall tradition.
This can be seen in the increase in demand of artisans working with stained glass and thatch, or indeed, the ever ubiquitous range cooker in modern country homes despite its tempestuousness— bake at your own risk. This conflict between modernity and tradition speaks of a desire to make our homes more practical but still keep sight of the charms and innovations of former trends.
One such example of traditional design staking its place in future development is the Hanok house. The Hanok is a traditional house design that can be seen dotted all over the Korean peninsula. Not only beautiful, these structures are also very efficient.
The raw materials used in constructing a Hanok—wood, soil, tiles, and rock—allow the building to blend into the surrounding area and create an overall atmosphere of nature and freshness. The large windows and sliding doors are made from traditional Korean paper or Hanji. Hanji is an incredibly light and breathable material, the whiteness of which is offset by the light wooden frames into which it’s set.
These materials coupled with large, square rooms evoke a peaceful and clean home environment.
Efficiency is increased as eaves on the roof can be adjusted between winter and summer months, blocking or retaining heat as needed. Moreover, most Hanok’s use traditional underfloor heating known as Ondol which retains heat longer than conventional Western methods such as radiators.
While many of the materials used in building Hanok housing have not changed over the centuries, generations of architects have been adding their own contemporary take on the structure. From using rescued wood to keeping the conventional orientation of the house— a mountain to the rear and river to the front— designers and architects strive to maintain the relationship between the old and the new.
Slanting roofs are sometimes twisted into dynamic new shapes. The traditional central courtyard can be reimagined as a rooftop terrace or wraparound patio, all serving the same communal and relaxing function of Hanok courtyards of yesteryear.
What is extraordinary in all of the modern re-workings of the Hanok is how unforced they seem, which speaks volumes of the clever design origins of this special house.