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Jeju’s thatched roof housesStep back in time at Jeju Stone Park’s traditional village
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승인 2016.12.22  10:45:40
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▲ Traditional thatched roof houses at Jeju Stone Park Photos by Douglas MacDonald

This month’s architecture tour is a little different.

While previous structures in this series have been designed by world renowned architects who use Jeju’s materials and nature, none of them have grown out of Jeju’s distinct character quite like the buildings we will focus on today.

The buildings I am talking about are, of course, Jeju’s traditional straw thatched roof houses.

Some historians estimate that houses have been built with a straw thatched roof on Jeju since between 6,000 and 2,000 years ago. They are steeped in the history of the island and everything from their size and layout to the materials used have evolved over thousands of years to echo the culture of the island.

When looking at these buildings there are three main places where it is possible to get a glimpse into this older way of life. These are Seongeup village, Pyoseon folk village and the folk village at Jeju Stone Park.

Each of these villages has its own unique features that make it an interesting place to spend a few hours. Songeup folk village, for example, is a real village with people still living in it. Pyeoseon Folk village, on the other hand, contains many traditional houses, but the focus is more on tourism and, as such, the village’s design isn’t accurate.

Like Pyeoseon Folk Village, the village at Jeju Stone Park is also a reconstruction, however, everything from the houses and the layout, to the Pongnang tree, has been carefully recreated according to how villages would have been originally designed.

▲ Traditional thatched roof houses at Jeju Stone Park Photos by Douglas MacDonald

Walking around the village is a fantastic experience in itself. Up in the countryside and away from any other signs of development, it really feels like you have taken a step back into the past.

There are a massive 46 houses in the village, which make up a total of 19 households. The space in the village almost seems alive, with gardens being used to grow plants and yards dotted with traditional toys. This gives the whole area an almost eerie, ghost town like feel.

For this article, we spoke to Yang Sang-ho, the architect who designed the village, about some of the specific characteristics of both the Jeju Stone Park village as well as the characteristics of Jeju’s traditional straw roof houses as a whole.

▲ Traditional thatched roof houses at Jeju Stone Park Photos by Douglas MacDonald

Materials used
The materials found on Jeju give these houses their unique look and feel. The walls are made from black volcanic stone that has been layered together in a similar way to Jeju’s Batdam stone walls.

As well as this, Zelkova Serrata trees were used for the eaves and structure of the houses as this type of tree is stronger than the pine trees found on Jeju. The final main material used is the straw for the roof.

▲ Traditional thatched roof houses at Jeju Stone Park Photos by Douglas MacDonald

Wind

One of the biggest influences on the way the houses were built is, of course, Jeju’s environment. When it comes to Jeju, nothing has a stronger impact on the island than the intense winds blowing in from the sea.

This changed the overall size of houses. When compared to the mainland, houses on Jeju are smaller, as it makes them less susceptible to wind damage. In addition, the eaves of the house are narrower to stop the wind catching and literally blowing the roof of the houses off.

Furthermore, in order to stop the straw on the roof blowing away, rope (made from a plant similar to the Eulalia plant), was used to tie the straw down. This didn’t come without its downsides though, as the rope stops water from draining properly which made the roofs susceptible to flooding.

The combination of wind and rain meant that roofs on Jeju houses had to be replaced every two or so years.

▲ Traditional thatched roof houses at Jeju Stone Park Photos by Douglas MacDonald

Family structure

As well as the effects of Jeju’s harsh wind, Jeju’s natural environment influenced the houses in other ways.

For example, while providing a reliable and sturdy rock for the houses to be built from, Jeju’s volcanic rock did have some drawbacks.

As a naturally porous rock, collecting water was always a problem for Jeju villagers. This affected not only the amount of water available for consumption but also meant that it was near impossible to grow rice on the island.


Don't forget the other articles in this exciting series!

Tadao Ando’s Jeju architecture
Click Here!

Itami Jun’s Jeju inspired architecture
Click Here!

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