The Korean House - EXPOSITIONS AND THE CULTURE HOUSE
|Understanding Korea Series No.5|
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|1) New Housing Types aft er the Opening of Ports||EXPOSITIONS AND THE CULTURE HOUSE||2) Transformation of Hanok in the City|
The Japanese word bunka (translated as “culture,” munhwa in Korean) was first used in the 1910s in Japan, and gradually gained popularity on the Korean peninsula in the 1920s as a trendy form of slang. By then, munhwa began to stand for modernization, added to other words to suggest a “new and better version of the existing one.” This meant that a munhwa jutaek (文化住宅), or “culture house,” was an ideal modern house that had adopted the urbanized, Westernized lifestyle that deviated from the existing housing style.
In 1910s Japan, there was a movement initiated to improve traditional Japanese houses in an attempt to alleviate the gap between the traditional lifestyle and the Western lifestyle. Some of the issues addressed by this movement were the lack of privacy existing between rooms in traditional Japanese houses and the irrational use of spaces centered on the reception of guests. This movement greatly influenced the features of culture houses. Through the model village at the Tokyo Peace Exposition of 1922, culture houses were introduced to the public, with fourteen actual houses on display. These 20- to 30-pyeong (66 to 99 square meters) Western-style houses targeted Japan’s middle class and offered detailed solutions to various problems that had emerged during the house improvement movement.
The idea of a culture house was introduced to Koreans in the early 1920s. To promote this idea, an organization called the Architectural Association of Joseon held various activities such as an exhibition of culture house designs and floor plans. There was one large-scale event called the Joseon Exposition of 1929. The Architectural Association of Joseon was the exhibitor of the actual culture house, and over 700,000 people visited the exhibition, an event that contributed greatly in dissemination of culture houses in Korea.
The Architectural Association of Joseon started to prepare for the display of this house six months prior to the exhibition. Their arrangement committee limited the construction cost per pyeong of floor space to around 150 Korean yen (the equivalent of US$ 14,000 today) for one- or two-story buildings of 20 to 40 pyeong (66 to 132 square meters), targeting the middle class. However, only Japanese who lived in Korea and a small number of upper-class Koreans were able to take advantage of this style of housing because of the size and cost.
Over time, culture houses became popular in the Japanese residential area in Seoul. There were cases where a number of individually constructed culture houses would form a culture house district. The development of culture house districts by common developers or government-run companies first appeared in the mid-1920s. In the case of residential districts in Seoul, culture house districts were located near the boundaries of old Seoul, found at the foot of mountains such as Namsan, Naksan, Geumhwasan, and Daehyeonsan. These districts were also highly accessible to the city, with residents who were entrepreneurs, high-ranking government officials, professors, government employees, doctors, office workers, and bank clerks, among others.
Culture houses had a centralized floor layout (unlike traditional hanok that had several buildings forming a house, every room of a culture house was positioned inside a single building) and design that resembled the exterior of Western houses, such as pointed roofs and dormer windows (bay window on the roof), chimneys, porches on the front side of the house, and bay windows in the living rooms.
- Kim Yong-beom, Munhwa saenghwal-gwa munhwa jutaek (Cultural life and culture house) (Seoul: Sallim, 2012), pp. 8–9.
- Lee Gyeong-ah, “Iljegangjeomgi munhwa jutaek gaenyeom-ui suyong-gwa jeongae” (The adoption and evolution of the concept of “culture house” during the Japanese colonial period in Korea) (PhD diss., Seoul National University, 2006), p. 58.
- Lee Gyeong-ah and Jeon BongHee, “1920-30nyeondae gyeongseongbu-ui munhwajutaekjigaebal-e gwanhan yeongu” (A study on the development of the culture village around Keijyo [Seoul] from the 1920s to the 1930s), Daehangeonchukhakhoe nonmunjip (Journal of the Architectural Institute of Korea) 22, No. 3 (March 2006).
- Jeon BongHee and Kwon Yong-chan, Hanok-gwa hanguk jutaek-ui yeoksa (History of hanok and the Korean House), pp. 180–182.