Project : 50m2 House
Design Period : 2014. 08 – 2014. 10
Construction Period: 2014. 11 – 2015. 02
Type : Residential
Location : Seoul, South Korea
Site Area : 85.00㎡
Site Coverage Area : 44.30㎡
Building-to-Land Ratio : 52.12% (Max. 60%)
Total Floor Area : 49.23㎡
Floor Area Ratio : 57.92% (Max. 200%)
Building Scope : 2F
Structure : Wooden structure
Finish : Corrugated steel sheet, Stucoflex
Architects : OBBA (Sojung Lee & Sangjoon Kwak)
Design Team : Jaeho Kim, Daae Kim, Hojae Lee, Sojae Ahn
Construction : TCM Global
Photographs : Kyungsub Shin
We know that how the idea of home is important to ourselves without necessarily quoting
from British poet and critic T.S. Eliot who once described “home is where one starts from.”
However, today’s home signifies something else than where one begins one’s life from. The
“home” becomes a mere exchangeable asset within the logic of capitalism, and as a result, we
drift along the homogenized dwelling types.
According to the Seoul Institute’s 2015 census data, the average floor area of a newlywed’s
home is 72.7m2, and among them, 44.6% lives in an apartment building and/or multipurpose
commercial/residential building typology. Two third of newly-wed couples lease on deposit
basis, and 49.3% of those couples pay 100,000,000 to 200,000,000 KRW. The standardized
typology and over-inflated housing price limit the parameter of choice in choosing a house
for a young couple.
The clients were soon to be married. They asked us to build a house based upon their
fundamental questions about how to start a life together, satisfying the basic essentials. They
wanted a modest but plentiful life in it. The project emerged from finding a realistic solution
for the newlyweds to move into an alternative abode, other than an apartment building or a
The site is sitting in an entrance location of the Gaemimaeul, one of the few remaining
colonies of rag pickers in Seoul, Seodaemoon-ku, Hongjaedong. The walls of this old shanty
town are decorated with paintings in attempt to embellish the area, and this exudes a
mysterious atmosphere. Two adjacent roads–8m wide on the north-east side and 3 m wide on
the north-west–meet in an angle, and the site’s south-west and south-east sides are narrow
alleyways only for the pedestrians. The site is steeply sloped, whose level difference is 4m.
We concentrated on three main concerns. One was to find ways to read and approach the
poor condition of the client’s purchasable land within the limited budget. The other was to
integrate the house into the landscape of colorful wall paintings that are contrasted with the
existing monotonous shanty town. Lastly, the issue was to conjure up a small but plentiful
spatiality within the modest amount of construction budget.
It was important to preserve and utilize the site condition as much as we could, in order for
the most effective construction process. The house is two-story building that contains
minimum programs requested from the client. The floor area is less than 50m2, the maximum
area that doesn’t legally require a parking lot.
As the site is surrounded by the roads sloping up towards north, we designed the entrance of
the building in between the first and second floors. For the efficient movement and program
arrangement of the house, we placed the living room and the kitchen on the second floor, in
order for a sufficient natural light and a great view, as the couple spends most of their time in
these spaces. Some private rooms and bathroom are on the ground floor. The house is small
but every nook and corner of the space is efficiently used. At the attic of the house is a study
or a movie screening room, and the stairs that lead to the attic functions as bookshelves.
There is a level difference between the living room and the kitchen so that the cooking table
is extended to a seated dining table in the living room.
Our dwelling culture has been occupied by the large scale development along the capitalist
logic, which resulted in erasing many of the city’s own characteristics. If we look for
solutions to the remaining poor-conditioned small lands in the city, one could anticipate that
our dwelling typology be abound again, while reserving the traces of the local qualities.