Tuesday, June 29, 2010

RTLS: Hanok

The term hanok (한옥) refers to Korean traditional houses. Characteristics of hanok include wide front porches, private inner courtyards, dark tiled roofs, hanji windows and an underfloor heating system known as ondol. Beyond these common features, there is significant regional variation. Hanok in the mountainous northern region have generally been constructed in the shape of the Korean letter "ㅁ" to retain heat during frigid winters; hanok in the South have been constructed in a straight line, in the shape of "l" (or the Korean letter "ㅣ"), with large windows and an open, wooden-floored area for maximum air circulation during hot summers; and in the central regions, traditional homes take the form of the Korean letter "ㄱ". There has always been additional architectural variation based on class and social status.

Although many of these traditional houses have been razed to make room for apartment buildings and office towers, there are still large pockets of well-preserved hanok, even in Seoul. In addition, thanks to a recent rise in both public interest and government support, many hanok are being preserved or converted into cafes and art galleries, and entire new villages of hanok are being constructed throughout the country.

I'll try to find some time soon to explore some of these traditional neighborhoods. (I'm not sure, actually, if calling them "traditional" is entirely accurate, since some of these renovated hanok are now among the most coveted homes in Seoul.)

Until I take my own pictures (which won't be this good anyway): http://korean.visitkorea.or.kr/kor/hanok/index.jsp

"We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us."
- Sir Winston Churchill