In Korea, a balcony is also called as verandah and/or terrace. The exact purpose of each space is different. However in traditional Korean architecture, toenmaru acts as similar space, which also connects the inner and outer spaces. Toenmaru is like a hallway located in between the garden and a room where even simple housework can be done. This space is a cultural product that reflects the social customs and the natural environment.
Apartment housing became the optimum residential type in Korea as: the Western architecture made literal transition into the country, the growth in population through rapid economic development, and the most sites being mountainous regions. Most people live in apartments and the balcony has multiple functions. It is a place to dry clothes with natural sunlight, grow plants, and the only place in the high-rises for the residents to have an interaction with the outdoor environment. These characteristics of balconies are gradually transforming. As people are extending the square footage of the living spaces in each apartment units, the balconies are being eliminated. Drying the clothes in the living room has become a common practice; also, the plants have been replaced with smaller herb plants or disappeared from the household. Couples or the parents spend most of their days at work and the children spend most of their time in school or afternoon academic institutes. Therefore, it is not a critical factor for the residential units to have exterior space along with the interior space.
Thus, architects started to consider incorporating use of the outdoor spaces in office settings.
The first method is to extend the window with curtain wall. The wide windows allow the natural light to penetrate deep into the building. The second method is to design an inner courtyard, which then would increase the volume of the building and allow the natural light to enter deeper into the building. These methods only gave a visual access of the nature to the users. After all, the users only had the access of the outdoors through the roofs or ground floor.
Accordingly, the architects began to find new methods. Among these architects, Kim Chan-Joong provided an office space in which the users can have more interaction with the outdoor even though it had lower energy efficiency. In his buildings, the access to the outdoors is not limited to the ground floor or the roof. Balconies or terraces are designed on mid-floors that allow access to the outdoors for the users; also, to improve the psychological satisfaction of the occupants. Through this arrangement, he also envisioned expanding psychological sustainability and creating a comfortable work environment.
The desire for balcony (or wanting to be engaged with nature in the urban context) has expanded to the lodging facilities. Snow Hotel located in the city environment designed to attach balconies in each suite and assigned as the final destination of the visitor’s circulation path. The path would start from the outside then in to the lobby, the hallway, the suite, and finally back to the outdoor through the balcony. It would be a place to view the cityscape as a part of the nature.
As such the balcony in Korea offers a relaxing area where one can escape from the busy daily work, or as expandable space in a residential setting. Furthermore, it is an open space which cannot be defined neither as an indoor nor outdoor. It is a modern Toenmaru.
Key word: Balcony, Toenmaru, THE_SYSTEM LAB, KHVatec Headquarter, Snow Hotel, 1990uao