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Spatial Elements

The spatial structure is a system made up of spatial elements. In analyzing Korean clan villages, it is useful to classify the spatial elements into four kinds such as lot, road, house, and community facility.

Lots refer to parcels for houses. Their sizes have a wide deviation even within a settlement. For example in Wontuh, the average lot size is 446.5m2 and the standard deviation is 463.7m2. The lot size is indicative of the socio-economic status of the dwellers, and is a factor influencing the organization of the house. The lot shape is a generally atypical polygon. Accordingly the house is shaped atypically and has the various choices of layout.

The traditional Korean settlement is woven of roads. The road system, like the water system, is composed of a set of roads converged or diverged at a series of nodes, usually not crossing one another. When the road system in a settlement is carefully analyzed, a fact is often revealed that the roads has a hierarchy. Thus, the roads can be classified and named as 'Main Road' and 'Sub-road' according to their hierarchy. The Main Road is a path connecting the important elements in the settlement. It starts at the settlement entrance and leads up to the rear boundary of the settlement. It is shaped first of all in the settlement : when the Family head's house is located, in case of the clan village. It is not for entering houses but for connecting the important elements which organize the settlement, so it has the nature of a passage through the settlement rather than that of access to houses. It generally functions as the axis organizing the whole settlement space. And it is the main circulation linking the inside and the outside of the settlement, often leading up to neighboring settlements. Usually its shape is a line with gentle curves, and sometimes a few linear branches are combined to form Main Road. The Sub-roads spread out from the Main road and serve as access roads to houses. Therefore, they have the function of access rather than passage. Usually they take the shape of ring or cul-de-sac terminating at a house.

The traditional Korean house is a complex made up of yards and buildings. It is a general principle that each building has a corresponding yard. The Inner Yard (An-madang) is generally at the center of the house complex, and the Inner Building (An-chae) is at the back of the Inner Yard. The barn and the outhouse are at the sides of the Inner Yard, and the Men's Building (Sarang-chae) or the Servants' Building (Haengrang-chae) is at its front. The backyard is often used as the most private outdoor space. In this way, the characteristic of the house organization is in the centripetality with the Inner Yard as its center. In case of the small house, first the Servants' Building and next the Men's Building is omitted. However, the Men's Room (Sarang-bang) of the Men's Building is often sustained by being attached at the barn. If the house size gets smaller than that, the house has the organization of 'Inner Building + barn' which is regarded as the minimal size13. The house is demarcated by placing the outer walls of buildings at the boundary of the lot, or by building fences made of brushwood, stone, or mud and the like. In this way, the house usually has the definite boundary, which is deemed to be complement of the relatively open buildings.

When the house type is argued, the Inner Building is generally concerned, since it is the indispensable part in the composition of the house and has variations according to the region and the socio-economic class of the dwellers. According to Rapoport, there is a commonly accepted model in the vernacular architecture, and vernacular buildings can be understood as the model and its individual variations14. And it has been found, through field surveys by the author, that it also applies to traditional Korean houses. Therefore, it is valid to grasp the house type in traditional Korean settlements as the model and its individual adjustments. Analyzing houses at a settlement one comes to find that there are common elements found in most of the houses. And there are houses with more elements and those with less ones. Thus the differences between the houses in a settlement are determined by the how many elements they equip. In this paper, the plan type which has the formality by equipping full elements, is defined as 'the Model Type', and that which omitted some elements is referred to as its variation. The Model Type is a complete plan in that it is pursued by the residents as long as their economic conditions allow. The variations appear as diverse forms by loosening the formality and following the convenience of life within the resident's socio-economic capacity. Among them, the type which is the most frequent in the settlement is referred to as 'the General Type'. In Fig 5, the Model and the General Types in four settlements including Wontuh are illustrated. We can compare the plan types of residential buildings, especially the Inner Buildings there. Such coexistence of the Model and the General Type in a settlement implies that the house type is also related to the spatial structure of the settlement.

Source : Muae architectural studio, Field survey report on rural housings of northern Kyongsang-do province, 1998
Fig 4. A typical Korean house (Family Head's house in Wontuh)

Fig 5. Model and General Type houses in typical clan villages

Analyzing the kind and size of the community facilities can be one of the ways to illuminate the community life in the settlement. The various community facilities of the settlement are classified into ceremonial, social, farm, and service facilities. Of course, all the facilities are not well maintained and actively used today since it is hard to keep up the dispensable facilities because of the shortage of maintenance cost. Nevertheless, the community facilities may be still recognized as one of the spatial elements of the settlement.

The ceremonial facilities are related to the ceremonies such as the ancestor worship service, and represent the clan physically with the impressive symbolism. The Ancestral Shrine and the Ancestor Worship House belong to this category, and recently the church is on the rise as a new ceremonial facility due to the rapid spread of Christianity to the Korean rural area.

The social facilities which serve as the places for social contacts of the residents are used most actively in everyday life. Also they reflect the group activities and the social organizations in the settlement. In this category are Jongja which is a typical and essential traditional social space and the Village Hall which was built all over the rural settlements in the 1970s as part of 'the New Village Movement'. And the Confucian educational facilities often found in the clan village are included in it.

The farm facilities are for farming which is the main industry in the rural area. They show the character of the Korean farming which needs the cooperative group work by exchanging labor. The new farm facilities needed for new farm methods are found in some settlements, these days. However, the number of the farm facilities found in ordinary settlements are very limited since the group work has been fading and futhermore the farming itself has fallen into decay.

The service facilities are for supplying goods and services needed in residents' everyday lives, such as stores and barber's. Especially, the store with a dining space play the role of the social space where happen social contacts. Today, however, most of rural settlements depend on neighboring cities for needed services, so the number of the service facilities is being minimized.


13. Kim, Hongsik & Lee, Haesong, A study of the house layout shown in the 'Theory of the house' of 19C, (Seoul: Journal of the Architectural Institute of Korea, 1988.12)*, pp.95-96

14. Rapoport, Amos, House Form and Culture, (NJ : prentice-hall, 1969), pp.4-5

* The titles of Korean references have been translated into English by the author.

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