The Story of Architecture

Meet President Roh Moo-hyun's Ideals and Philosophies

President Roh Moo-hyun and the architect Chung Guyon taking a look around the surroundings of the house. Chung also took on the design scheme for the restoration of President Roh's birthplace. April 4, 2008.

Chung’s sketch of the house as seen from above. Drawn on April 30, 2006

In March 2006, President Roh Moo-hyun decided to return to Bongha Village, Gimhae in Gyeongsangnam-do after his retirement. The first thing he had to do was to acquire a house here as he had not lived in his hometown for 30 years. That is how the first cornerstone of the Home of Roh Moo-hyun came to be laid.

President Roh Moo-hyun shared numerous thoughts with the architects as the owner of the house. It is not an exaggeration to say that there is no place in the house that does not reflect the President’s thoughts, as he played an integral role in selecting not only the building site but also the architectural and interior designs in addition to the landscaping. A former Cheong Wa Dae (the presidential residence) spokesman Yoon Tae Yeoung, also known as the President’s transcriber, noted the following observations on the President.

The efforts he had put into the house until its completion were substantial. As it was his nature to carefully analyze and review every detail, and also because he thoroughly enjoyed creating things, he had a lot to ponder and was always busy devising something of his own. There were inevitably some trials and errors that were encountered along the way. It was his house to live in until his last breath and therefore he wanted to plan the house carefully and commit to numerous attempts, as there was so much for him to consider.

Above all, it had to be a place that would allow him to lead a comfortable life. It had to have a space where he could greet his guests and have pleasant conversations with them. It also had to have an appearance that was in keeping with the small farming village which meant that it should not be too big in appearance, but it should not be overly humble either. After all, it had to be practical in many ways. - <Record (2014)>, page 205

A Base Camp for the Development of Farming Communities

The Home of Roh Moo-hyun was designed by the late architect Chung Guyon, renowned for the 'Library of Miracles’ which he designed. He was also known as the 'master of earth architecture' and 'ecological architect'. He was not simply an architect who only pursued visual beauty as he was also a 'storytelling architect' who told the stories of people and nature. President Roh believed that the architectural philosophy of Chung matched well with his own, so much so, that he asked him to design the house to live after his retirement.

Finally, the two met for the first time as the owner and the architect at Cheong Wa Dae on April 27, 2006. However, the plans the president proposed were somewhat different from what Chung had anticipated.

A base camp that will become a model village community. That was the first thing the President had asked me for at our first meeting.
He wanted to unfold the plans for Bongha Village with me rather than solely focusing on the design of the house. I first asked him why he wanted to return to a farming village. His first answer was very short and clear, "I’d like to go there to serve the community." He then continued, "I like to think of my home and Bongha Village as a single community. If a former president settles down in a farming village, that place will face many changes. That's why we have to do positive things for the village and study what to do and how to proceed, so I’d like us to work together to shape the future of Bongha Village.”

The president’s ideas for Bongha Village was also a task that I had been working on through public construction works for rural residents, such as the 'House of County Residents' in Muju and various library building projects. ... Now I come to think of it, The inconvenient earth house that I designed resonates with the President's wishes to become an integral part of the life of the village, working together in harmony and always being there for each other through good times and tough times. What I did was to design a base camp that would revive rural communities while dreaming of the new Bongha Village with him, rather than simply designing a president’s house. - <Roh Moo-hyun is no longer with us (2010)>, page 101

Design notes of the architect Chung Guyon, where the wishes of the President and first lady were written down during their first meeting on April 27, 2006.

They contain a sketch of Bongha Village that Chung drew, and the names of the places in the village such as Bonghwa Mountain, Hwapo Wetland, and Yongsan Mountain(Baemsan).

The Low-roofed House

The 'Low-roofed House' is the birth name of this house that has been used since its initial conception. President Roh and the first lady, together with the architect Chung Guyon named the house which the President also called the ‘Humble House’. The Home of Roh Moo-hyun, which has a flat roof as its name indicates, is a low-built, single-storey building with a basement. President Roh did not want a house that stood tall, but instead wanted a place that merged with the lines of nature in harmony. Mixing with people was also an important issue. The president did not want his new house to block or exclusively benefit from the wonderful scenery that the villagers had previously been enjoying.

If you look toward the village, at the Home of Roh Moo-hyun from his graveyard under the Sajabawi Rock, you can observe the curves of the house that naturally extend from the lay of the mountain at the back. If you view the house from further away at Hwapo Wetland, the house does not reveal itself at all as if it was too shy to be noticed.

An Inconvenient Earth House

The Home of Roh Moo-hyun is characterized by various traditional architectural features and the most typical one adapted here is ‘Chae-dividing’, which is the method of space dividing. ‘Chae-dividing’ is a design technique, which reflects the modern adaptation of the concept of Anchae and Sarangchae in the traditional farmhouse. If you look at the house from the sky, you will find that the security team, administrative offices, Sarangchae and Anchae are all arranged in a rectangular array surrounding the courtyard as a whole. It shows that Chae, or divided spaces, are arranged like a village to form a single house. Among these, the private space in which the President and the first lady occupied, except for the security facilities owned by the government, include four units which are Anchae, Sarangchae the kitchen and study(meeting room).

Because each space belongs to a different form of Chae, shoes have to be worn to move between the living spaces. Therefore, it may have been a little inconvenient to live in, but it clearly forms a structure that suits the surrounding habitat where you can hear the birds singing, feel the touch of the wind, smell the fresh scent of grass and be close to nature. You can feel time pass and the weather change through the skylight and outside view, no matter what part of the house you are present in. The President, who decided to serve the rural community after his retirement, readily accepted the arrangement of Chae-dividing as proposed by the architect Chung Guyon.

The materials used to build the house were all natural materials such as red clay, red cedar wood, and granite. ‘Chagyeong’, which uses a window to capture the outside scenery like a beautiful painting, while ‘Hwagye’, a terraced flower garden created on the slope facing the back mountain, are also nature-friendly architectural features that can be found in the House of President Roh.

"Into a home where the nature, people and democracy prosper once again"

On February 25, 2008, President Roh returned to Bongha Village with the welcome of many citizens after spending five-years in Cheong Wa Dae. On this particular day, the architect Chung Guyon presented the President with a book that bound major architectural sketches he had drawn while designing the house.

The first page of the book contained a letter he wrote for the President to celebrate the start of his new life. Architects are of the opinion that the house is a container that embodies the life of a person. The writings of Chung highlight the deep interactions the two men shared while building the house and embodies the dream of President Roh Moo-hyun, who returned to the 'Low-roofed House' as an ordinary citizen.

To Mr. and Mrs. President,
I present to you a collection of selected architectural sketches, made over 1 year and 9 months, from April 2006 to January 2008.
For an architect, designing a house is a very difficult task. But the house with low roofs gradually became beautiful, through a collaborative process involving thoughtful discussion with mutual respect, and your meaningful criticism. The house with low roofs was not merely built, but merrily born.
Low but self-assured, may this house with low roofs be forever filled with peace and happiness for Mr. and Mrs. President, and serve as the ground for rebirth of the natural and human lives of our nation, and for another blossoming of democracy.

Chung Guyon
February 23, 2008

President Roh Moo-hyun and the first lady listening to Chung’s explanation on his sketched design of the "Low-roofed House" on the day they moved in.

The architect Chung Guyon presents the President and the first lady with a book that collected and bound major architectural sketches he had drawn while designing the house, on their first day in their new home.

A letter the architect Chung presented to Mr. and Mrs. President with the collection of his sketches on the day they moved in.