House embraced by the forest designed for a middle aged couple

House embraced by the forest designed for a middle aged couple

Architects: studio_GAON
Location: Munwon-dong, South Korea
Year: 2016
Area: 2.142 ft²/ 199 m²
Photo courtesy: Yong Kwan Kim

“The House of Prajna seems like a vessel heading for the woods, embraced by the forest, with the pentagon shape of building site reminding of that of ship. On the bow of ship shape, a persimmon tree over hundred year old branches its arms toward the large sky with hollowed trunk. Although this house is a result of intentional design, I feel like it is already been completed by thousands of interactions of invisible components. Every time I visit, I feel like appreciating the work of someone else’s.

The house is located in Gwacheon near Seoul. Gwacheon has been playing a role of government city, and praised for an ideal place for living. Other houses in the district, line along the street a bit apart from each other, and the surrounding woods enclave the town like a blanket. The site feels cozy.

At first, the owner of the house, a middle aged couple, said in tranquil but clear tone that they have four family members, have a dog and want to have a separate workroom distinctive from the living place. They bought the land ten years ago, and other lots around the site have been already filled out. Lastly, they wanted to preserve the awesome persimmon tree.

The word ‘Prajna’ originally comes from Sanskrit which means wisdom. The meaning of wisdom could be broadened to signify the ideal state of acknowledging the world without any barrier. Thus, the ‘Prajna’ also means a ‘wisdom which can be attained after the true sense of realization about the whole living things.’

Distinctive from other religions, Buddhism aims for pursuing the realization instead of salvation for the next world or wealth of earthly life. Achieving ‘prajna’ through realization is the main purpose of the Buddhism. The realizations comes from looking back, observing the world with a transitory pause. Putting a pause in the middle of rushing life gives the opportunity to purify the distorted confusions originating from one’s desires.

Architecture is not far from this process for it creates the way to permeate both the life and thoughts, and a house contains the both family and thoughts of the family. These thoughts help to imagine the images of floor and garden, but the result is not always predictable because the harmonization of several factors. Some are not even clear as to what they are.

The main theme of this house is an ‘insight meditation.’ There are several reasons why exclusive space for meditation has been located in the center of the house. The owner of the house studies Buddhism in his spare time and needs a place for a sitting meditation, and also his wife has been practicing tea ceremony for many years. Thus, I located the meditation room in the center, and only aftwerwards I designed other parts of the house, such as living place, dining room and bathroom.

Each part of the house is gradually raised, taking advantage of the trait of land, with northern part getting higher than the road. And this also creates a sense of place to each function.

After that, I added the other necessary functions of the house in a spiral composition as if ‘samsara’ were manifested in the Buddhism. Separated parts of the house gather toward the center where persimmon tree stand, but then they are also fragmented at the same time. Then, we drew a line with the corridor which penetrates the whole house, cutting through each room, garden, and terrace. In other words, the beginning and end, inside and outside of the house are all connected to each other. In the center of the house, under the persimmon tree, there is a tiny room, hardly fitting one person, used for meditation.

The House of Prajna also blurs the boundary of inside and outside. The house is intertwined with the woods, and the owner takes a place near the mountain like a hermit, and contemplates the outside world from inside the house.

The ultimate pursuit of Buddhism is to ‘realize’. This realization enables people to escape from the boundless desires by unlimited wisdom. Everything is connected to each other. Hence there is no absolute image or location. Every existence could be substantial or shallow, and soul or body simultaneously.

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