A lot of architects get a bad rep for being narcissistic control freaks with a Randian complex—people who exert their "vision" and expertise over their clients. That said, occasionally utterly reasonable architects actively try to involve clients in the design process. Because you never know. Sometimes a client might have, you know, a fun idea.
Such was the case with the Panorama House, a hillside home in Yangcheong-ri, Korea, that’s surprising in more ways than one. Designed by up-and-coming Seoul-based architect Moon Hoon, the quirky house is a thoughtful collaboration between its designer and its future residents. The latter laid out their ideas: Mainly they wanted to split up the organization of the house so that the parents get half and the children get the other half. Moon responded to those ideas with his own. He gave the adults their space and the kids an autonomous fun zone. (Teaser: There’s a slide involved.)
The house’s form—usually the domain of the architect—was the result of a considered decision on behalf of both parties. Rather than replicate the model of neighboring houses, many of which impose tall perpendicular walls on the hilly regional landscape, the clients and architect agreed that their design should be "less intrusive." As Moon tells Co. Design, the Panorama House "reacts humbly to the site" because it’s encircled by sculpted hillocks that mask the first floor. As a result, the long, thin, diamond-like facade "floats" above the yard; its sharp points and rhythmic folds mimic the hills around it.
The oddly sized windows may seem randomly positioned, but they are calibrated to meet the floor levels inside. Koreans traditionally don’t lounge on sofas or dine at tall tables while seated in chairs. Instead, they sit and recline on heated floors, where, cross-legged or with bent knees, they also take their meals. From this vantage point, standard windows placed even just a few feet high offer little to no views—and would have squandered the forested landscape outside.
But back to the "fun zone." The clients, both teachers, really wanted their four children to have "an independent environment that encouraged them to be independent," Moon says. They shopped around for architects to design them a home that met this criteria, and chose Moon for his creative and playful streak. (He designed the "Lollipop House," after all.) The architect split the house into several play and study areas for the kids, with family spaces and the parents’ bedrooms interspersed among those spaces.
Moon gave the kids the top attic floor, with its privileged views and airy atmosphere, to use as a massive play space—along with their own kitchenette. He arranged the kitchen, living room, and children’s rooms along the ground floor, and placed the master bedroom, dining room, and deck area on the second floor. They all converge at the central library that zigzags up into the heart of the house. Moon always intended for the library, a large piece of cabinetry that’s part bookshelves, part staircase, to be the home’s focal point and activity center.
Even then, Moon recalls, he had the idea of embedding a slide in the stairs to cut down on the children’s commute time from their playroom to their bedrooms. He added small risers to the staircase, adjusting for the tykes’ scale, and installed a movie screen in the wall opposite, effectively turning the staircase into an intimate movie hall. The clients loved it. They especially treasured the slide, which, Moon emphasizes, is used by both the kids and their parents.