Architect Byoung Soo Cho’s Earth House is quite possibly one of the classiest dugouts ever built. Set amid peaceful woods and rice fields an hour east of Seoul, Korea, the subterranean structure consists of six tiny unadorned rooms (kitchen, library, two bedrooms, and a bathroom) and a 23-by-23-foot courtyard. Cho describes the house, dedicated to Korean poet Dong-joo Yoon, as a place for self-reflection. He says the concept goes back to his 1991 graduate thesis at Harvard, where he began exploring Taoist ideas about negative and positive space, and the question of just how much (or little) space we need in order to live comfortably. Sixteen years and several unsuccessful attempts at selling an underground house later, Cho finally decided to build one for himself. Earth House was completed in February 2009 on a lot down the road from Cho’s more conventional vacation home, the square-shaped Concrete Box House. He currently uses the Earth House for weekend gatherings and stargazing.
At night the courtyard and light well (foreground) become dramatic blocks of light, illuminating surrounding trees
The floor of the courtyard is made of rammed earth from the building site, as are the walls and floors of the interior. All doors, including this one leading to the stairway, are about four feet high.
Each of the six rooms measures just one pyoung, a traditional unit of measurement in Korean architecture. That’s about 4 square yards, or as Cho puts it, just enough to “lie down and still have a few inches of space.”
Earth House is dedicated to Dong-joo Yoon, a Korean poet who died as a political prisoner in Japan during WWII.
The bathtub is a simple box made of fragrant hinoki cypress. Its shape echoes one of Cho’s favorite inspirations: a wooden apple crate.
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