The Korean House - 5.2 Transformation of Hanok in the City
|Understanding Korea Series No.5|
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|EXPOSITIONS AND THE CULTURE HOUSE||2) Transformation of Hanok in the City||AN EXAMPLE OF URBAN-TYPE HANOK: GAHOE-DONG|
In the early twentieth century, Koreans responded to the dramatic changes of urbanization and house distribution patterns. To overcome a serious shortage of urban housing, Koreans accepted the inevitable mass distribution of standardized, small-scale houses, but were slow to adapt to the Western-style spaces and housing layout. Despite the modern changes related to these living spaces, including electricity, water supply, and their proximity to trams, Koreans maintained their indigenous lifestyles by wearing traditional Korean clothing and eating Korean food. In addition, they wore Western-style suits to work during the day and changed into hanbok, or Korean traditional clothes, during their evenings at home. This “double lifestyle” continued until the 1960s. Under such circumstances, the housing industry appeared to meet the market demand. Housing businesses purchased large lots, parceled out the land, and then constructed urbanized hanok to be supplied to urban middle class. The old urban houses of the upper class, including those of high-ranking government officials and members of the royal family, were the first to be torn down and developed. The houses belonging to such groups had been built on large parcels of land sized anywhere between a hundred and, in some cases, even thousands of pyeong (one pyeong is equivalent of 3.3 square meters). When suppliers bought these lands and separated them into 30- to 40-pyeong lots, they could construct dozens of small hanok to be sold. In the 1930s, there were no such lots left in the city. Therefore, the builders began developing lands outside the old city walls to be used as arable fields.
These new hanok, which had been mass constructed by suppliers, were named “urban-type hanok.” The urban-type hanok was developed as the original form of small hanok in Seoul. In Joseon Dynasty-era Seoul, hanok builders were already experiencing a land shortage, resulting in L-shaped or U-shaped houses with outer walls directly facing the street without fences, unlike rural houses. However, urban-type hanok also maximized the efficiency of land use by standardizing house sizes and building houses side by side, positioning eaves next to each other. Land was typically parceled into rectangular shapes, with there even being appearances of rows of houses under a single connected roof.
As a part of this process, urban-type hanok began to integrate the anchae and sarangchae of traditional houses into a single building, a structure that also incorporated both the entrance and the toilet. Urban-type hanok were preconstructed for the market; suppliers decorated the houses with fancy roof tiles and used thick, unnecessarily ostentatious materials in more noticeable places. Suppliers also standardized room sizes to better suit mass-produced building materials. The environmental performance of such houses improved around this time due to the use of modern building materials such as brick, tile, tin, and glass.
If official residences led the construction boom of new houses in the 1910s, then urban-type hanok led such a movement in the late 1920s. One of the reasons for this was that most of Korea’s urban population preferred hanok. Another reason was the supply value differentials for hanok, yangok, and culture houses. The construction expenses of hanok were less than half of the construction expenses of culture houses, which made them easier to afford.