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 ATA > Korean Tradition > The Spatial Structure



(Ph.D Dissertation, Seoul National University, 1991)


     This study interprets the spatial structure of rural clan villages in Korea. The spatial structure of rural settlements may be categorized into two basic relations. The first one is between 'global space' and 'elemental spaces', and the second one is among elemental spaces themselves. Accordingly, the study analyzes the spatial structure of each village by focusing on major concepts: placement of buildings, sequence of spaces, - relationships between global and elemental spaces - and interaction between spaces, hierarchy of elemental spaces - relationships among elemental spaces -. Global space is defined by the village inhabitants' own cognition of the village boundaries. And the village is broken down into elemental spaces consisting of lots, roads, housing units, and communal facilities.
     This study also analyzes the changes in both elemental spaces and spatial structure since 1950, when conspicuous changes began to appear in the Korean rural society. The study is based on the research of four typical rural clan villages located in the southern part of the Korean Peninsula: Sangsa, Wontuh, Yeondong, and Dorae. It has led to the following conclusions:

     1.[Placement] The elemental spaces making up the global space (settlement space) have different characteristics depending on their location in the global space. "Placement" is a concept seen in the size and shape of the lot, the location of the main road, the composition of the unit house, and the nature of communal facilities.

     2.[Sequence] Links from one elemental space to another form a regular sequence. "Sequence" is a concept seen in the connection from a unit house to a communal facility, to the settlement entrance, and to farmlands belong to it. There is a close relationship between the characteristics of an elemental space and its sequence.

    3.[Interaction] The relationships between the elemental spaces can be described as integration or segregation. There is a dialectical tendency to integrate and segregate different houses. And there is segregation between a unit house and the main road or a communal facility, while there is integration of the unit house with the sub-roads.

     4.[Hierarchy] There is a priority among the elemental spaces in organizing the global space. The order of priority in the composition of the global space is the main road, the lot, and the sub-roads. Communal facilities occupy a higher rung of the hierarchical ladder than do the unit houses, while those unit houses near the rear of housing area are hierarchically higher than those near the front part. The formal hierarchy is coincident with this compositional one.

     An analysis of spatial changes in the case settlements since 1950 shows a constancy of the spatial structure in contrast with the mutability of elemental spaces. The partial changes found in the spatial structure, however, are weakening the characteristics of the traditional spatial structure. And they are influenced by the factors such as the changes in constructional method, socio-economic circumstances, and life style. They are summarized as follows.
     1.[Changes in placement] The general rule that  the rearer part of the global space enjoys greater hierarchy has been weakened. However, the boundary of housing area has tended to remain the same.
     2.[Changing sequences] The sequence of spaces has tended to become weaker as houses become more individualized. Elements such as fences and iron gates have replaced former spatial treatments which compensated for the omission of one or more components of the sequence.
     3.[Changes in interaction] There is a trend toward the closed composition of unit houses which has led to the segregation of houses from nearby elemental spaces.
    4.[Changes in hierarchy] As various housing types are introduced to the settlement, the formal hierarchy between the unit house and the communal facilities becomes more obscure, but the functional hierarchy gets clearer as community activities are concentrated at a few limited locations. The formal hierarchy of the newly-built elemental spaces is not coincidental with the compositional one.

     This study clarifies that an analysis of spatial structure is crucial to understanding and differentiating the architectural characteristics of rural settlements. Furthermore, spatial structure is an important factor that characterizes the elemental spaces which have been a major subject of the architectural studies on rural settlements. This leads to the fact that the essential characteristics of Korean rural clan settlements lie not in the changeable elemental spaces but in the constant spatial structure. The consequences of the study - the characteristics of rural clan villages and their trends of change may be a fundamental basis for planning Korean rural settlements.