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Forces Shaping the Spatial Structure

The object of this paper is the spatial structure of the settlement which means the system interwoven with the spatial elements, described at the previous section. Given that the spatial structure exists in the settlement, before we describe it, a question may be asked; what are the forces that shape it? And it is assumed that the constancy of the spatial structure is significantly related to that of the forces.

Through analyzing the typical Korean settlement by means of structural approach, the forces underlying its spatial structure as well as the spatial structure itself can be educed. In broad and overall sense, the forces are expected to be categorized into three notions: worldview, natural environment, and socio-economic structure. And the specific aspects of the notions are reviewed here with particular reference to the traditional Korean settlement.

If the general idea is accepted that the settlement is regarded as the microcosmos by the residents of traditional Korean settlements, their collective worldview is likely to be reflected in the spatial structure. The concrete aspects of the worldview which are considered directly related to the settlement can be sought in Fengshui and Confucianism (Chutzu ideas). Fengshui, interpreting surrounding natural environment, has a direct influence on the decision of locating lots and houses. The hierarchical idea of Confucianism influences the formation of hierarchical settlement space. Given the constancy in such aspects of the worldview - Fengshui was introduced to Korea in 9C and its basic concepts are not changed -, it may be regarded as one of the forces that makes the spatial structure constant.

In arguing the causal factors of house form, Rapoport regarded socio-cultural factors as primary, and natural forces as modifying factors15. In the Korean worldview, however, it is not so meaningful to dichotomize the forces to form the house or the settlement into natural and socio-cultural ones since the socio-cultural factors like Fengshui are closely related to natural ones.

Whereas the organization of the house is influenced by the climate to some extent, as generally known, the spatial structure of the settlement is deemed to be considerably affected by the topography. In Korean settlements, it should be specially noted that the spatial structure is closely related to the topography of the surrounding landscape as well as that of the settlement itself. The surrounding topography is closely related to the way in which the settlement territory is defined. The sense of territoriality in the traditional Korean settlement is secured by means of selecting a site with adequate surrounding natural elements. The natural environment is all constant, and is consequently a factor to sustain the spatial structure of the settlement. And, when the natural elements are not enough to define a territory, some artificial planting and/or other manipulations are added as the complementary device to the natural condition.

In general terms, the third force, the socio-economic structure is relatively changeable in Korea, through about four decades of the industrialization. However, its specific aspects should be explored in relation to the spatial structure.


natural environment

socio-economic structure

spatial structure

spatial concept

new settlement planning

 new technology

Fig 6. Formation of the settlement

The spatial structure which is shaped by three forces argued above is deemed to be embedded in the residents' cognition and to influence their constructional activities. Such a typified cognition or idea on the spatial structure is defined here as 'the spatial concept'. It is the residents' collective cognition or mental image on the spatial structure, which may be conscious or unconscious. Its conscious aspect is expressed at the residents' statement and the unconscious one also can be caught through the careful interpretation of the existing spatial structure. The spatial concept is definitely represented in the symbolic interpretation on the settlement form by the residents. For example, some settlements are compared to boats. Such a spatial concept immediately influences the locations of wells. If wells are dug inside of settlement the boat will be sunk down, so there is a taboo not to dig wells inside. As such, the spatial concept outlines the living space. We can see here that the self-control of the settlement space is based on the spatial concept hold in common by the residents. So, it is not only an idea but also an operating factor which maintains the settlement space. Thus, even though this kind of symbolic interpretation is asserted to have offered the ruling class a means to control the people16, the spatial concept is worth being considered a fundamental factor in planning living space17 as well as in interpreting the spatial structure.

As argued above, the frame of the settlement space is controlled by the spatial concept to some extent. And the spatial concept is, conceptually, much more constant than the real conditions surrounding the settlement since it needs much time to set up a new spatial concept based on the changed situation. From these two facts, and considering the interrelationship between the spatial structure and the spatial concept, shown in Fig 6, the spatial structure is expected to be constant.

In the Korean rural area, a village name Saetuh (means a new site) is often found. It is a small housing site separated from the original main housing site. The presence of Saetuh shows the will to maintain the established order of the original settlement. Once a settlement is set up, it continues to grow to a certain extent, sustaining its unity of order. With topographical and other reasons, however, it has the limitation of growth beyond which it would lose the unity. Subsequently it needs a new site near the existing main settlement. Besides, a new site is sometimes needed from social or economic reasons. In this case, it is common that a different clan than the clan of main village dwells at the new site.


15. Ibid., p.47

16. Kim, Hongsik, Traditional dwelling in Korea (Seoul: Hangil-sa, 1992)*

17. The settlements constructed by 'the Project of Improving rural settlement structure' of the 1970s are good examples which cause the trouble and complication of the spatial structure by neglecting the residents' spatial concept. One of studies on this problem is Han, Pilwon & Lee, Dongrak, A research of the changes in farm houses built by Standard design, Seminar on housing 2 (Seoul: Urban design studio, Graduate school of Seoul National University, 1987)*.

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

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