Hanok - The marvel of Korean architecture

Posted: November 18, 2020
Category: Design and Architecture
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Hanok - casă tradițională coreeană
© Valentin Stoica

It is undeniable that Korean architecture mesmerizes tourists at first glance. Traditional Korean houses (or Hanok in Korean) have a designated place in most towns, whether they are big, hectic cities or picturesque villages that remained untouched for centuries, delighting passers-by with their uniqueness, pleasing appearance, as well as the enchanting Korean traditional style.

These buildings are believed to have their roots back in the Joseon dynasty (XIVth century) and share a few essential principles which assume their harmony with the surrounding environment and the usage of eco-friendly, recyclable and easy to come by raw materials. Among the resources used in the building process of Hanok houses, we can find wooden planks, stone, clay, paper, and rice straws.

Another outstanding characteristic of Korean homes is their precise and meaningful location. According to some superstitions that go back millennia, the house must have a mountain at its back, a flowing water in the front and to be surrounded by a variety of other natural elements, depicting the belief according to which Koreans live healthily and in harmony with the environment. These structures share various sizes according to the owners' social status. However, what is even more interesting is that the house's shape may differ according to the climate in which it is built. Thus, in the North, where the weather is cold and dry, you can mainly spot square-shaped homes, built around an inner-courtyard called madang. This feature allows buildings to retain the heat within their walls and efficiently block the wind coming from outside. In Southern areas, where the climate is much more moderate and gentler, the Hanok is built in a straight line, which facilitates better air circulation, especially during the dry season.

One of the wisest Korean inventions throughout history can be considered the heating system of traditional homes. Basically, the floor is installed on a perforated stone platform and connected to a main stove or fireplace. During heavy winters, the warm air radiates through the small perforations, providing a pleasant temperature in the house's chambers. This underfloor heating system is called ondol and it is used successfully even in present. Thanks to this invention, Koreans can enjoy their meals or even take a nap on the floor, without any problems. Moreover, it is ondol that can be considered a valid answer to one of the most debated topics among tourists more precisely: why do Koreans take off their shoes as soon as they enter an indoor space? 

Hanok cu gard și grădină
© Vasilica Gabor

At present, Hanoks integrate the characteristics of Korean traditional architecture and continue to entice passers-by, thanks to their unquestionable beauty. Some of them are home to lovely restaurants which try reproducing, in an authentic manner, the atmosphere from the good-old-days, while the others function as hotels which allow curious, eager and endeavoring tourists to get a taste of how Korean families from the Joseon dynasty would spend a typical day of their life. There are plenty of popular locations designated for the visiting of Korean traditional homes, being the perfect spot for some enviable selfies or the place where you can try hanbok, the traditional Korean costume.

Therefore, I consider any so-called „Korean experience” incomplete without exploring these unique landmarks as well.

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