Seoul, like many major cities around the world, is characterized by scarcity of land, overpopulation, staggering real estate prices, and urban segregation. These living conditions have forced architects and urban planners to search for alternatives, (re)introduce new models of co-living, low-cost suburban housing, and mixed-use developments. However, proximity to work, educational, commercial and health facilities, and public transportation, as well as improved infrastructure and better governance have helped sustain living within the compact city limits. Located within the busy streets of Gangseo-gu, Five Story House by stpmj is a project that explores the relationship between single-family housing and dense urban contexts beyond investment value and contextual constraints.
Gangseo-gu is characterized by small spaces with typical two-story apartment buildings. Recently, the area has been redeveloped as a major research and development campus, with diverse cultural complexes, residential and commercial buildings, and public parks attracting a young demographic and families. Real estate in Gangseo-gu is one of the most effective investment tools, with the purchase of an apartment is the most popular way to increase personal assets. While typical Seoul residential styles feature an apartment with a living room, kitchen, dining and bedrooms all on one floor, the dense urban fabric of Gangseo-gu and the project’s small location forced stpmj to design ‘vertical living’ with different floor areas.
Taking into account the local cultural norms, the economic value of the apartments through redevelopment, and the knowledge of the living infrastructure, the vertically stacked house with a small floor area is a provocative and questionable housing solution. Due to the nature of the small site and construction area, when construction conditions in the downtown area are impractical and require the use of special construction techniques, construction costs often rise, making the purchase of a one- or two-story detached house on a larger site.
five storey house / stpmj
The additional costs of building on such a small site, trying to increase the area of the indoor and outdoor envelope, ensuring each floor received the required amount of sunlight, and receiving complaints from neighbors within this dense urban fabric were all some of the complications of developing such a house. However, upon completion, vertical housing became a need among people who grew up in apartments in the 80s and 90s and were looking for diverse spatial qualities that could not be found in typical apartments. It is now possible to own a building at a low selling price, focusing on personal life rather than community life within the city centre.
As a solution, Five Story Building is designed as a mode of moderation between high-rise apartment buildings and single-family dwellings that provide different types of living environments within densely populated cities. The stacked project stands vertically on a plot of less than 100 square metres, constrained by mandatory setbacks and parking regulations. Despite its small uniform morphological characteristics, the architecture introduces small modifications by “curving” the main elements that define the building. The ‘arch’ of the cantilever over the car park, as well as the sloping wall on the fourth floor that extends towards the entrance and openings on the elevations, reveal the structural identity of the vertical single house and express its unique appearance.
The house was created for a family of five; Husband, wife and their three children. Besides the typical functions of the house, the project also has a private studio for making furniture for the husband, as well as a multi-play room for girls of 10, 8 and 6 years old. Within the larger volume posed by setbacks and parking regulations, the required programs are placed in vertical areas. The girls’ multi-room is located on the first floor with an extended north deck for them to spend time between school and after-school activities. The furniture making studio is located facing South Street next to the car park to facilitate the pair’s movement in and out. The common areas such as the living room, kitchen and dining are allotted on the second floor, while the master bedroom and little girls’ room are on the third floor with a small library and wardrobe. Both the first and second daughters have their own floors; The largest girl’s room on the fifth floor is allocated with a panoramic view of the surroundings, the fourth floor is for the middle child and includes a bedroom, bathroom and a second gathering space with a terrace.
The building’s exterior is clad in locally made red brick. A typical 190mm x 57mm x 90mm brick is used on perpendicular geometry. On the curved surfaces and covered volumes, the parking space on the ground floor, and the terrace on the fourth floor, broken bricks with irregular sectional surface are used to create different materials for the building. Large, wide openings are replaced by slender windows to provide light and ensure privacy from neighboring buildings. To ensure more privacy, a brick screen is placed over most of the openings except for the south side. The interior is finished with warm wood floors and panels, along with white paint finishes on some of the surfaces.
This feature is part of the ArchDaily series titled AD Novels where we share the story Behind Mukhtar’s project, dive into its peculiarities. Each month, we explore new installations from around the world, highlighting their story and how it came to be. We also speak to architect, builders and the community seeking to emphasize their personal experience. As always, at ArchDaily we highly value the input of our readers. If you think we should feature a particular project, please submit your suggestions.
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