SNU ∣ Bukchon Village ∣ 01


In summer 2013, I had a privilege to attend the summer program by Seoul National Institute (SNU). I was offered to choose two courses for the program, and after a long consideration I chose the courses called: 'The Korean Architecture and Urbanism' and 'Ceramics' class. The courses were far the one of the best courses that I ever chose, especially the 'The Korean Architecture and Urbanism'.

The Architecture course required me to do 5 field trips, investigating the spread of urbanism and development of Architecture of the areas. The posts that I will be posting will be the review and my experience of visiting the places.

The post will be divided into 4 parts according to the place I visited:

  1. Bukchon Village (북촌마을)

  2. Ssamziegil (쌈지길)

  3. Leeum Samsung Museum of Art (리움 박물관)

  4. Ehwa Woman University (이화 여자 대학교)


Disclaimer: The 5th place that I went to for the field trip was called 'Seonyudo Park' (선유도 공원), however due to insufficient photographs and resources, I decided to exclude from this series.



01 | Bukchon Village


On the first field trip, I had a visit to a place called 'Bukchon Village', located in a place between Gyeongbok Palace, Changdeok Palace and Jongmyo Royal Shrine. 

Bukchon Village is a place where large number of Traditional Korean Architecture, Hanok (한옥) were built in Joseon dynasty, although the Japanese completely rebuilt all of the buildings in the area and it is preserved until now.


During the mid 1900s' Japanese colonization in Korean peninsula, there was a huge shift in many aspect of Korean culture, which includes the style in Korean art and design.

Japan during the time was experiencing its cultural shift was well where Japanese style of art started to merge with aesthetic of simplicity, or rather an art of order and systematic style of art and design.

Everything was in order, where all the houses, apartment seemed as if they were mass manufactured. There weren't lots of building which 'stood out' from the rest. And the shortage of land and the acceptance of western culture contributed to the shift hugely. This change in design style has affected the Korean Traditional Architecture style as well.


In Bukchon Village, there are two very distinctive feature that stands out from other traditional places:

Mass production

The Japanese transformation has directly affected the style of how the Traditional Korean buildings were stylized - many of the traditional buildings were remodeled, being mass produced and aligned in a very structural and a systematic way.


As we can see from the images above, the buildings are structured in a very sequential format - as if the buildings are mass produced. 

Personally, I find this sense of orderly format and sequential layout aesthetically beautiful - it relates to the the style of minimalism. Also I really like the how the the organization is very simple, yet sophisticated.

This application of organization style also adds an interesting elements to the architecture, producing a vibe where it is no longer a singular building, but a group of houses which looks more like an apartment. As a result of this mass production of traditional buildings, the spaces for each buildings are assumed to be relatively small and compact. This could be good for some people and bad for the others, depending on the people's preference. I personally really love this small spacial allocation as I like small spaces rather than big spaces.


Traditional and Modernism

A second unique feature that we can find in Bukchon Village is that there is a merge of tradition and modern design in some of the houses.


The bricks which are used to form the walls portray how the modernize construction method is being utilized with the traditional buildings. This creates the harmonious collaboration of traditional structure and modern design. This mixture illustrates very sophisticated and also a luxurious color to the house.

Also, I think the application of both modern and traditional design elements creates a grandiose atmosphere when we look at the structure - this is because the traditional houses seems to portray a grandiose emotion when we face them. Strangely, I feel a similar vibe in consumer products made by Samsung as well.


A Hanok which is integrated with modern architecture.

Another Hanok which was reconstructed with modern building materials such as bricks and window panels.


And these are more photos of Hanok where modern architecture design were integrated with the traditional building style.


The visit to the Bukchon Village was very interesting experience as I was able to see lots of unique style of building structure during the trip. One interesting thing was that, when I look at the village as a whole, there was clearly a certain distinction between the rich and the poor, but only by looking the houses individually. Strangely, the rich and the poor were not distinctive in a way that there was a whole area of Hanok for rich people and the area for the poor. Instead, they were located in a way that they were are mixed together - there weren't any clear boundary between the rich and the poor, but the buildings from each status were interwoven. You were able see a middle class person's Hanok and then you see the rich people's Hanok. Then you see poor people's Hanok. That was one of the interesting part of the trip as I was able to find.

Certainly the collaboration of modern and traditional design style gives me an interesting emotion when I face the building: the rather luxurious and grandiose vibe. This, I think, is an important design method which could be implemented into other aspect of design, yet when I will be using this, I think it has to be utilized carefully in a way that I need to be able to fully control this method and make this style into mine. As I mentioned before, Samsung has definitely seemed to achieve in portraying the grandiose emotion from the consumer product, although it seems that the company is not actually realizing that they are doing this.


Below is all the photos that I took during this trip.