The Korean House - 3.2 Types of Hanok
|Understanding Korea Series No.5|
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|1) Ondol and Completion of the Traditional Hanok||2) Types of Hanok||ARCHITECTURAL FEATURES THAT REFLECT REGIONAL CHARACTERISTICS|
As the size of houses increased, the layout of each house became more dependent on the arrangement and size of the rooms, as well as on separate buildings in the same household. Therefore, the layout of a house differed according to the region and the family’s social standing. In fact, none of the upper-class houses of over thirty bays were the same, which can be attributed to the fact that every owner had his own preferences and each house was constructed under different geographical conditions. The technique of the carpenter hired to build the house also had a great influence on the overall construction.
The floor plan of the main building of a house can be categorized into two or three layout patterns. These patterns are determined by the different ways of combining ondol rooms, maru, and the kitchen. Houses found in either the mountainous or plateau area in the northeastern part of the Korean peninsula had rooms arranged in two rows, which required more intensive composition. Even though there were environmental disadvantages, this composition was favored because it helped protect its occupants from cold air. Having rooms arranged in two rows extended the width of the house, thus requiring a wider and heavier roof. As such, an effort was made to reduce the weight of the roof by replacing the standard roof tiles with lighter materials that could easily be found in a mountainous area, such as tree bark and wood planks.
The commonness of double-row houses can be directly related to the occupations of local residents, which included collecting medicinal herbs, hunting, and farming non-rice crops. The solitary nature of such activities meant that, rather than establishing a community or village, people lived their own separate lives. Under such circumstances, houses in mountainous regions had a more defensive formation. For example, a stable in this type of house would be built as part of the house while houses further south would have their stables built independently from the main residence. Placing a stable within a double-row house would form a triple-row layout, one that typically had a square-shaped floor plan. This type of house had more similarities to traditional Japanese houses than traditional Korean ones.
The houses in northwestern, central, and southern regions of the peninsula had slightly different variations on the general single-row layout. The northwestern region of the Korean peninsula that borders China is cold but has well-developed plains. A basic house in this region would typically have linear-shaped buildings that are usually arranged in two rows on the north and south sides of the courtyard. This composition was similar to the arrangement of a traditional Chinese house.
Meanwhile, as the size of houses in the center of the peninsula around Seoul increased, bent floor plans, such as those with an L, U, or square shape, began to be used over linear designs. These more angular floor plans were developed in order to resolve some of the land shortage issues caused by the rapid expansion of the city and its population. Therefore, instead of arranging linear-shaped buildings around a single courtyard, angular houses were built side by side or directly next to the street for more effective land use. The result of this strategy was more densely populated residential areas.
Seoul, which served as the capital of the Joseon Dynasty for over 500 years, was originally surrounded by an 18-kilometer city wall that circumvallated a 16-square-kilometer area inside. The city was composed of several palaces and national facilities, while the land directly inside the rampart was deemed unsuitable for housing due to the steepness of the slope. In the early Joseon Dynasty, Seoul’s population was estimated at 50,000 people and had increased to 200,000 by the dynasty’s end. By the late Joseon Dynasty, there was not enough land to build houses, so there were frequent conflicts over ownership of properties. To accommodate the concentrated population on the limited land, the courtyard-centered house was developed.
The house layout that was popular in the southern region of the Korean peninsula connected ondol rooms, a maru, and a kitchen in a single row. This way, each room was attached to another by its sides while also remaining open-air at the front and back. By creating an entrance on the front side of the room and windows on the rear side of the room, air ventilation and natural lighting were greatly improved. This formation fit perfectly with the mild climate of the central-southern Korean peninsula. Each house was surrounded by fences and was composed of several linear-shaped buildings for different functions. As such, each individual building in the house served as a separate quarters and had its own courtyard. As one traveled across the southern region, however, one would witness slight variations in house layouts depending on geographical characteristics such as the region’s proximity to plains, mountains, and the ocean.
Jeju Island, located off the southern coast of the Korean peninsula—the country’s most southward point—had a unique house layout. The major difference was that the walls and fences were formed with volcanic rocks, the most common material in the area. Also, the houses were designed with thatched roofs tied with straw ropes to withstand the strong winds. Because of the island’s mild winter climate, ondol systems were not applied as actively in comparison to the Korean mainland, and buttumak were rarely installed. A typical Jeju house was composed of two linear buildings in a double-row arrangement. Buildings here were not separated by their functions as they were on the mainland, but they were instead separated for the independent lifestyle of parental and filial generations.
Styles of homes in the central-southern part of the Korean peninsula transformed as the population increased during the late Joseon Dynasty, especially in the nineteenth century. Therefore, the width of the basic home layout expanded little by little in the front and back ends of the house, and these enlarged spaces were used as part of the home’s interior or were installed with toenmaru to make them into both indoor and outdoor spaces.
Expanding the width of the house, however, requires completely different technical requirements when compared to expanding the length of the house. Expanding the length of the house does not require that the structure of the house be changed; builders must only continue doing what had already been done: add extra bays as a continuation of the structure. But when the width of the house expands, the roof must also be enlarged in accordance with the new width of the building, and the structure to support such a roof has to become bigger and sturdier. Thus, more advanced techniques along with bigger building materials are needed to expand the width of the building. If the width of the house was doubled, then volume and weight of the roof would octuple. Therefore, to hold eight times the original weight, the structure of the building would need to be strengthened accordingly.
Since advanced architectural techniques were applied to build all types of houses in the late Joseon Dynasty, expanding the width of the house was possible. In the early Joseon Dynasty, all skilled workers were supervised by the government. The carpenters who constructed houses were of low class, for example, and the registry of such laborers was maintained by the government offices of each district. The carpenters were mobilized to construct national facilities, including government offices, fortresses, and schools. In order to build religious facilities, Buddhist monks were educated in architectural techniques as well. As the Korean status system began to shift in the late Joseon Dynasty, carpenters no longer found themselves being managed by the government, meaning that they were able to work without any restrictions. As a result, more advanced architectural techniques began to be applied to commoners’ houses during this time and, consequently, stronger and bigger houses were built.