Monday, July 23, 2012

Environmental Harmony of Korean Traditional Housing

Housing Construction and Environment

The features of the Korean climate are affected by the temperate climate, four seasons, and then the cold and dry northern regions in contrast to the humid and warm southern regions. And thus, the traditional housing across the peninsula is likewise affected by the architectural layout and construction.

This well compiled outline of the variations between the housing structures across the peninsula was put together by Oh Eun Jung, Eom Yum Sik and Park Do Young in a presentation related to environment. All picture and information credit goes to them ... my learning curve was high and I was highly interested, so with permission, they share their information with the common public here. Now I can understand when I go to museums and folk villages and other cultural sites why the houses look different, and some radically so. The biggest confusion has been when cultural folk villages have houses brought in from various areas but there is no comment on the construction related to the different area where the house originally stood ... but now I see the light!

(predominantly in North Korea)


shaped sturcture
ondol, heated floor system
thick walls for insulation and small windows to maintain regular indoor temperature

low ceiling for retaining the heat


linear houses with wings and multiple rooms

jeoungjugan, a large central room heated by the kitchen next door (perhaps could be called a hearth room) for communal living and warmth

┏ shaped structure - usually designed so to fit neatly within a rugged terrain which might have trees, slopes or limited flat land

no wide floors - the rooms are simple and small and easily heated

areas include southern part of the Hwanghae province, Kyunggi, Kangwon, and Choongcheong provinces ...... ㄱ shaped house (major form) ; udegi house (Ulreng Island) ; neowa house(mountainous areas)


ㄱ-shaped because of relationship with outer environment and with inner environment

building materials are planks, rice straw and mud for plugging the holes - all natural materials found locally and readily accessible


Udegi refers to the unusual protective wall around the building.

The weather of Ulreung Island is maritime with heavy snow falls, so the addition of high walls around the house protects the dwellers from the elements and seals a passage for people to work in violent (which is frequent) weather

Both people and animals are protected together yet separate in this structure

Building materials are logs, tree bark, rice straw, mud and grass for caulking the logs


neowa, meaning "bark of the tree"

the mountainous region house - materials easily accessible in the mountainous regions which used to be heavily wooded

all-year round advantages with compact structure for safety, warmth and solid protection from the mountain winds

unlike many other homes, this house stands alone with all residents living inside and most having direct access to the outdoors via private doors; no walls and typically no out-buildings

(Jeolla and Gyeongsang provinces + Jeju Island)

 -shaped house (a single-winged house) - designed so wind can easily pass through

community room with wide floor

wide overhanging eaves angled so the sun does not scorch those on the wide porches or so the wind does not beat rain against the walls of the house

big windows that allow flowing breezes in summer
squat house with several wings - the purpose was the hug the earth and keep under the winds

having a  net-like covering over the straw-thatch to prevent the wild winds of Jeju from lifting the roof

simple inner structure for snugness (even though the winters could be quite cold, I don't think Jeju houses had ondol - the common feature of traditional Korean houses in the north)


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