Monday, September 24, 2012

But on a lighter note . . .

Lollipop House
Moon Hoon

Liza Foreman, writing "In South Korea, Houses With a Sense of Whimsy" for the NYT (September 20, 2012), tells of whimsical architecture by Seoul's Moon Hoon:
Kim Dae Sung, a 36-year-old computer programmer, his wife, Lee Ji Sun, 34, and their 4-year-old daughter, Kim Soo Min, look like a conventional family of three: a father who leaves for the office early each morning, a stay-at-home mother and a young daughter with cute pigtails.

But this family lives in an unconventional home, made all the more unusual by its striking contrast to the ranks of monotonous high rises that fill the Korean capital and spill out to the suburbs, including their town of Yong In.
Simply by living in a house rather than a high-rise apartment, the family is already unconventional, but there's more defiance of convention here, as you can see from the photograph above.
The Lollipop House is a wood-frame structure covered in a swirl of red-and-white steel plates, designed to resemble the candy -- though local children call it the Snail for its rounded silhouette. But regardless of the name, the seven-level house glows at night, yellow light pouring through its large glass windows.
There ought to be a photograph of that! Incidentally, my wife looked at the photo above and questioned the statement that it's a "seven-level" house. I share my wife's skepticism, and I wonder if the reporter jotted down "2-level" a bit unclearly and later read it as "7-level." I suppose I could try to contact Ms. Foreman . . . [Update: It really is seven levels! Go here and scroll a bit.]
The two-bedroom, two-bathroom home, designed by the Korean architect Moon Hoon, is unusual in other ways, too.

It was completed in February after just three months’ construction and cost a total of 170 million won, or $152,000.

And, perhaps most important, the Lollipop is part of a trend inspired by a 2011 book whose title in English is "Two Men's Journal of Building Their Homes," a story by Lee Hyun Wook and Goo Bon Joon about wooden construction that has intrigued homeowners here.

"Before, individual houses were for rich guys. It would cost you $100,000 for the architect alone plus $1 million for the house," said Mr. Moon, 44, who has a master's degree in architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Then came the book, which explained how to build in wood, which is much cheaper."

His 11-year-old firm, moon_bal_sso, is based in Seoul and most of his projects, including several homes and a school, are in the capital region.

"Apartments used to be an investment, which is why people tolerated living in a concrete box, but now they aren't going up anymore," he said. Seoul's real estate market has never recovered from the 2008 global downturn, and prices fell 2.14 percent in the first six months of the year from a year earlier, according to Doctor Apt., an online real estate site in Korea.
That global downturn merely burst a housing bubble that would have popped anyway, but I'm surprised that people didn't recognize the bubble and kept buying up apartments as investments.
Still, Mr. Moon's designs are not for the faint of heart. One of his recent homes, a quirky holiday house perched on the edge of a hill in Jeongseon, in the northernmost part of the country, features large gold horns on the roof.

"My professors would hate me for putting horns on a building," he said. "The client wanted something representative of a bullfight. Before and after the horns, it is a totally different building."
It certainly is, but you'll need to go to the article to see that one. I showed the photo to my wife, who told me she already knew about it. Here are more images, from Google Images.

I now think I'd enjoy living in a snail house, or even a horned house. Like a snail house, I'm slow, and like a horned house, I'm . . . well, never mind.

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