Tied In Transformative Knots: The Knot House Resort, Geoje Island, South Korea

1 Posted by - September 8, 2014 - Architecture, Asia, Design
Atelier Chang's Knot Houses

Atelier Chang’s Knot Houses on Geoji Island

Five white, multidimensional buildings sit on a cliff, on the southern coast on Geoje Island, South Korea.  Geoje is called, the Blue City, but it is actually an island, the second largest in a chain of islands off the coast of the port city of Busan, South Korea.

Geoje Island’s main attraction is its unspoiled coastal beauty. Outside and away from Geoje’s two towns, Okpo and Gohyeon, are a series of unspoiled, calm, blue water coves and pine forested cliffs.  It is on one of these cliffs that The Knot House Resort has been built, the second by the House Of Mind South Korean hospitality resort developers.

The inspiration for the architectural design of the Knot Houses came from the history and culture of centuries-old Korean knot tying, an ancient art form that the Korean people have perfected for over a millennium. In general the finished knot has bilateral symmetry –the same shape at the front and at the back and can be made using a few threads.  Traditionally knots were tied to hunting and gathering tools, but now there are multiple variations. The Korean knot is called a Maedeup.

It was the creative thought processes of the international architectural firm, Atelier Chang and its Korean-born creative director, Soohyun Chang, who transmogrified the techniques of ancient knot-tying into substantial architectural principles that created the Knot Houses.

The Knot House Resort, inspired by different knots, consists of one two-story house with a clubhouse and four additional one-story buildings. The Five cliff-top buildings feature walls that fold in on themselves to frame views and offer privacy.  The five detached dwellings are composed of folded concrete planes, and angled away from one another to allow for staggered ocean views and increased privacy.

“A key question,” said Ms. Chang in a recent interview,  “was how to achieve seamless spatial connection between the outdoor landscape and indoor living space. To answer, one had stop separating the building from the ground. Instead, we imagined a surface made of the landscape, which eventually folds into a knot to create an enclosure.”

It would seem that the concept of a knot is key in her answer, as the landscape and the enclosure have a type of organicity – one thread moving into the other to create an organic pattern; and also in the creation of the architectural design, setting the blend of indoors and out, creating a whole environment, a whole ‘knot.’

The first building is a two-story edifice and doubles as a clubhouse for guests and a house for the owner/manager of the resort. It has a communal kitchen and dining room on the ground floor, which opens on to a terrace and pool. The ground floor also has a private bedroom, bathroom and office for the owner, and the first floor has another bedroom, bathroom and a family room.

Interior of Knot House

A look inside the interior of a Know House.

The four guesthouses contain single-story apartments; two have one bedroom, and two have two bedrooms.  The high windows 9-16 feet in each house maximize unimpeded views of the ocean and coastlines, and outer islands.

The limited and slender building site was a serious challenge to fit a maximum number of units while maintaining privacy and ocean view.  The Atelier Chang studio conceptualized a layout to rotate each house by 40 degrees toward the sea.  This staggered movement diagonally down the cliff slope allows an unimpeded ocean views for the guests and provide areas of privacy also.

The elastic structure of the architectural Knot Houses creates different spatial experiences inside and outside each home. At the entrance to each apartment, the roof folds down to provide an angular covered porch. Then the knot ‘loosens’ in the front, as the windows open to the ocean view, also providing an intimate experience of bathing, near a private exterior garden.  In the back of the home, the knot ‘tightens’ and provides complete privacy space. Yet there are sections of timber from the terraces that continue inside along the ceilings, providing a visual connection between indoor and outdoor space. Similarly, the wood-effect ceramic floor tiles inside follow from timber decking outside, becoming a kind of trompe l’oeil effect for the guest.  Both of these techniques serve to blur the connections of traditional outdoor and indoor space and use.

The Knot design also combines intimacy and separation, gathering and solace for the Knot House guests. And yet, as Ms. Chang says, “The set of Knot houses was designed as a possibility for larger, chain resorts, which can be implemented in any location. Because the ‘knot’ uses the landscape of the site, the unique context of a site can be used to influence the building.” In other words, there could be a lot more knots, or a lot more buildings where indoor and outdoor become more organic, melding into one seductive context.

The transformative vision of the Korean Knot that could become a reality of a resort, with expansion and contracting spaces allowing for guest sociability and serenity might be a compelling win/win concept for creative resort developers to ponder, sooner than later.

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