Four decaying traditional Korean houses joined and turned into multi-purpose space
Seoul based studio desi_architects have
created an art space/café bar by joining and renovating four aging traditional Korean houses in the heart of
Seoul, South Korea.
Jongno district has been the center of Seoul for over 600 years. It plays an important role as home to
number of cultural, educational and political institutions. It is also a neighborhood which has not yet been
completely dominated by modern high-rise buildings, as is the case in many other parts of the city. Jongno
is full of tiny, picturesque alleys and traditional Korean houses – hanoks. This makes it a great place for
Seoulites to find an oasis of peace and quiet in the crowded bustling capital. Unfortunately, many hanoks in
the area have not been inhabited for years. Without maintenence, these historical buildings are slowly falling
desi_architects has completed a project in which four adjacent hanoks were converted into one mutlipurpose
space called ‘Sikmul’, which gives a contemporary twist to the character and atmosphere of
traditional Korean architecture and breathes new life into the area. Now Sikmul is a vivid open art space and
café bar that plays host to numerous cultural events and offers a unique gathering spot in Seoul.
The conversion of the decrepit hanoks into a modern art space was a multi-step process. First, some of the
walls were torn down in order to join the buildings and create a wider space. The roof was then completely
removed and replaced with transparent glass, which allowed for natural light and additional volume.
Individual roof tiles were reused to construct new walls for an original look that preserved the warm aura of
the old traditional buildings.
The main façade of the building was constructed with plexiglass. The remains of old walls, however, were
preserved inside and after dusk, when the interior lights are turned on, their silhouette can be seen from the
outside. This effect simultaneously projects a picture of both the past and present appearance of the
The elevated seating area on one side of the building is opened to the street, allowing guests to enjoy an
outdoor atmosphere and a feeling of openness and connection with the surrounding neighborhood.
Through the Sikmul project, the desi_architects team wanted to produce a space that would benefit the area
with original design which remains fresh and innovative without negating the charm and beauty of
traditional Korean architecture.