Hoji Gangneung Houses / aoa architects

Architects: aoa architects
Area: 383 m²
Year: 2022
Photographs: Hyosook Chin
Lead Architect: Jaewon Suh
Landscape Designers: Anmadang the lab
Project Team Members: Uk Sunwoo
Graphics: Jeongah Kim
Furniture Consultants: COM
City: Gangneung-si
Country: South Korea

Hoji Gangneung Houses, designed by aoa architects, redefine the concept of ‘pensions’ by creating tranquil retreats that blend seamlessly with their rural surroundings. Located in a quiet country town, the project consists of three accommodation buildings, a community warehouse, and the owner’s house, all connected by a circular walkway. The design emphasizes natural materials, simple forms, and a harmonious relationship with the environment, offering guests a serene and memorable stay.

Hoji gangneung houses / aoa architects

A ‘pension’ is no longer a viable alternative to hotels with their unreasonably high prices. Pool villas now line the seafront, and healing vacation retreats deep in the forest are fully booked during peak season, making it difficult for everyone to find accommodation. The concept of the ‘pension’, created by designers, and luxury accommodations known as ‘stays’ are gaining popularity, not through Instagram, but through word of mouth. For consumers, exploring these options can be enjoyable, but for architects, the vacation architecture trend often appears as a blend of glass, excessive interior design, and characterized by kitsch catchphrases like ‘We are equipped with Swedish body cleanser.’ The owner of HOJI shared a similar sense of weariness when discussing these trends with the architects.

The initial meeting took place two years ago in a quiet country town with unremarkable scenery. Recalling visits to their grandmother’s house, the architect remembered the quiet field and low, dark mountain as the only notable features. At sunset, smoke rising from a nearby chimney made the landscape even more uneventful and peaceful. This prompted the architect to question whether adding something artificial to the land would be appropriate. Despite these doubts, they decided to engage with the site purposefully. Walking through the lush, waist-high weeds on the nearly 3,300m² gently sloping land, it became clear that the lack of spectacular scenery was a blessing. The architect concluded that any new structure should be no larger than the existing houses, should be blunt rather than sophisticated, and should resemble common countryside structures. Unlike the dense urban environment, the countryside is characterized by many freestanding forms such as warehouses, plastic houses, and cabins.

The representation of specific objects was intentionally avoided, and maintaining a moderate distance was crucial to prevent the structures from appearing too out of the ordinary. The simple, symmetrical accommodation buildings created with these considerations aim to evoke memories for those who stay in them. To some, the Octagonal House resembles a nomadic tent or an octagonal pavilion; the Long House may look like a milk carton or a grain warehouse, and the Round House might appear as a slender piece of wood or a face with a hat. These associations, however, are not significant. Moreover, the concrete-like house appears to float above the ground as if placed on a table. Despite its toy-like lightness, it retains a sense of weight and solidity.

The three accommodation buildings, community warehouse, and owner’s house are positioned separately from each other at a reasonable distance. However, they are soon connected by a circular walkway with a minimum width of 30 meters. On a rainy day, walking between the pools of water and plants hanging above the muddy ground would be quite spectacular. Thus, HOJI remains grounded, balancing between reason and sensibility.

The three accommodation buildings serve as a warm refuge in the countryside. Instead of striving for overwhelming height, the design emphasizes large volumes filled with light, providing a welcoming retreat for visitors escaping the city. The simple pleasure of chasing shadows that move across the house throughout the day is complemented by the sounds of distant dogs barking at night, adding to the rustic experience. Guests can enjoy music selected by the owners and gaze out at the green onion fields through the windows. The extensive use of wood on the walls, ceilings, and floors creates the feeling of being inside a musical instrument. Low, flat chairs enhance the sense of height provided by the high ceilings.

The spatial structure is symmetrical and orderly, but the irregular furniture, resembling disassembled apple boxes, raises questions about its necessity. Outside the house, colorful grasses of unknown names have become habitats for insects. The houses are as colorless as cement warehouses. When a strong ray of light strikes the roof, the surface disappears, leaving only an undulating outline. This creates a feeling of being in a space between everyday life and a surreal existence. The octagonal house features an octagonal courtyard. It is divided into two spaces, with a passageway in the center of the bathroom, and the courtyard windows loosely connect the view through the trees. The shower space is entirely open to the courtyard, allowing the setting sun to touch the downy hair on the skin. At dawn, small windows high above the bed gently illuminate the steeply sloped ceiling, creating a feeling akin to being in a monastery.

The longhouse features a skylight running the length of the structure, with chunks of concrete beams hanging between the skylights, giving an unnecessary but charming appearance. The bathroom, which divides the sleeping area and the living room, has a low height, allowing the ceiling surface to flow seamlessly. Although the mirrored ceilings can be annoying, they are worth it for the view of the stars while lying in bed. The Round House has a large object hanging from the ceiling that initially appears to be a fireplace in an American house, but it is a kitchen oven hood. This hood reflects light from the ceiling and scatters it throughout the house.

Lying on the bed with a blood-red marble wall by the head, spaces seem to gather underfoot, creating confusion about whether one is lying down or standing up. After breakfast at the community warehouse, the shadows cast by the long-hanging plants under the eaves seemed to convey a message that was difficult to grasp. It felt as though elusive memories, or their owners, had intertwined with reality, creating a sensation that is hard to explain.

Hoji gangneung houses / aoa architects
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Project Location

Address: 78 Sinwang-gil, Yeongok-myeon, Gangneung-si, Gangwon-do, South Korea

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