Features of South Korean Traditional Architecture
South Korean architecture has distinctive features that stand out from the rest of the world. Even though they heavily borrow the style from the Japanese traditional way of building homes, the features of South Korean traditional architecture is one that is modified keeping in mind the weather and the environment of South Korea.
A distinguishing feature of hanok; a traditional Korean home, is the under-floor space heating arrangement called ondol (온돌) which is an arrangement of networks of channels that run underneath the floor of the house from which warmness is distributed from the fireplace in the kitchen to provide heat to the floor of the house so people can use the floor for both feasting and sleeping in daily life. The unit of the house closer to the furnace is warmer and the warmer area is earmarked for elders. Furthermore, ondol is used for health purposes – it is supposed that lying on the hot floor in the cold winter can help keep away illness and is good for the tired or sick people, pregnant women and the elders. Today, some contemporary apartments are furbished with a space heating arrangement is similar to the ondol system while traditional heat channels are replaced by under-floor metal pipes with consecutively water heated either by gas or electricity.
Another significant feature is the wide wooden-floor area (maru) located in the centre of the house and used for numerous purposes. The room is typically bigger than other rooms and is elevated from the ground to let air to freely circulate below it, generating a cool living atmosphere during the summer season.
Hanok tends to have long eaves (cheoma) – far-projecting overhanging cheoma are better at shielding the house from the high sun of summer months as they provide a large amount of shade, making hanok much cooler in summer. In winter months when the sun is low, sunlight penetrates deep into the interior of the house to provide warmth and the deep cheoma also prevent the warm indoor air heated by the ondol floor from escaping the house.
Decorations within hanok are kept to a minimal, usually inobtrusive and modest in nature, for example, latticework on doors and windows. Portraits, calligraphic works, unsophisticated but useful timber furniture and ceramic chinaware are often used as interior decorations of hanok. Given its unsophisticated beauty, nowadays, some Koreans may make use of the hanok style of interior decoration for their flats.
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