Seoul, South Korea
After booking a night, a weekend or an indefinite stay on Airbnb, 1-3 people will travel to the base of a mountain next to the Gangnam area of Seoul. A narrow foot path with loose gravel zig-zags between old trees and even older rocks to a huddle of cellular concrete forms. Colloquially named Gangnam Sty, the tubes are distinctly nonresidential and faceless. Weaving between each tube while watching the GangSty* tracking app, the guest’s smart-phones will beep to signal they have found their reserved home.
The shape of the home’s façade suggests the South Korean flag, a raised eyebrow or a cartoon fish, setting the tone for the weird truths and surreal themes that might or might not be obvious.
As a strategy to improve their ratings on Yelp and Amazon-Et-Al, and to differentiate their exportable culture from other world-class cities, Seoul’s government outlawed advertising, unless the advertising did not seem like advertising. Accordingly, the home’s entrance columns were donated by Kia and Hyundai in the image of their logos. Perhaps to remind guests how frustrating walking in nature can be, compared to driving in a large city.
Deep in the shadows of the home’s columned arcade a wall of glass next to a wall of brick seems impenetrable except for the puckered flickers of antenna and teeth. Guests will feel for a hole in the dark glass, finally allowing a section of it to open with a finger. The glass is chipped and hazed with use. A corridor with a reversed stair on the left will literally squeeze the visitors, forcing them to walk single file. On the right, grey coloured water trickles from a few holes in the concrete ceiling into a half-empty glass tank of water teeming with catfish and carp.
Guests will inch up a concrete stair on a peculiar diagonal, encountering the welcome and familiar texture of brick, though this exterior building material may seem passive aggressive in an interior space. The stair that starts out elegantly at its base tapers inward, requiring side-saddle walking that might contort some guest’s necks. The back of the kitchen has a mess of pipes and wires that open onto the stair. This industrial aesthetic that seems so funky and hip online may seem unfinished in person.
Arriving at the main floor, the home bursts open and closes in at the same time, in plan and section. The sofa will allow one guest to sit alone or two guests to sit very close, looking straight ahead instead of at each other. Behind the sofa is the only window in the home, with its top ending at a typical guest’s eye level. If a guest wants to search the world outside, the cluster of Kia and Hyundai columns interrupts the view.
Via GangSty* a floor to ceiling LED screen –where modernist floor to ceiling windows would normally be– will bluely come to life. A sunny scene with rainbows and unicorns can be selected, filling the home with light and good news.
In this home-away-from-home’s other half, a faux tiger skin rug stylishly tossed on the ground turns out to be bedding. A round high-tech bed rests on a massive ball bearing inset flush into the floor. This cozy sanctuary is more motion-sensitive than a water bed, theoretically erotic, and simultaneously futuristic and retrograde.
Inspired by the universal and international appeal of open plan living, the home’s shower and toilet enjoy panoramic interior views. The guest’s waist areas will be discretely concealed. To maintain modesty, all bathroom hand washing is done through a hole in the middle wall, where the activity is only visible to the other guests on the stair or in the kitchen. The home’s plumbing all drains into the fish tank in the unfinished basement.
A reclaimed ship’s bulkhead door is directly in front of the ball-bearing bed, opening out to an emptied half cylinder lined with celadon jade-green round tiles. This cylinder was designed to be a swimming pool, but after gathering feedback from guests, it became apparent that a patio and fire feature would be liked more.
A replica Buddhist shrine pops up through the patio’s floor, through the original pool’s drain hole. Guests are invited to spend cool evenings around a propane fueled fire atop the shrine. The distracting city lights of Seoul below are cropped from view by a mirrored half circle wall at the end of the patio. This deft touch doubles the impact of the fire, while filling the space with the reflections of the guests, so they will never feel alone.