Very recently, the South Korean architectural field has seen a rising trend to reinterpret the traditional hanok, meaning
Korean-style house. While this presents an interesting diversion from the housing market dominated by high-rise apartments,
there is a lack of consensus in determining the scope and definition of hanoks. This is because of many experiments
with the features of the hanok, such as inclusion of new material, construction techniques, and even radically
new spatial organizations.
This article explores and analyzes the effectiveness of four different approaches of reinterpreting hanoks: apartment
hanoks, urban hanoks, rural experimentations, and contemporary versions. At one end of the spectrum, there is the
recent integration of a hanok’s features in high-rise apartments otherwise considered modern. Then I move on to discuss
examples of urban hanoks built since the start of the industrialization era in the 1920s and afterwards. Urban
hanoks are detached houses, most of which show a stylistic preference toward wooden hanoks of the elite literati. The
third approach is rural experimentations that involve the development of an unconventional construction method by
both architects and non-architects. Finally, this paper turns to reinterpretations of the hanok by architects trained in contemporary
architecture. Although each approach differs in the degree of integrating historical hanok features, some
commonalities, such as low floor area ratio and the organic integration of an open courtyard, can be detected among
the successful cases.
Keywords: Hanok, Korea, Traditional, Architecture, Vernacular.
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