Artist’s studio home is an unusual 1,000-square-foot space that was built for $80,000.
New York Times
Il-young Jeong’s paintings blend landscapes with human forms.
So it is not surprising that the artist would be drawn to the work of a small, adventurous design firm in Seoul, South Korea. The staff at Architecture of Novel Differentiation, or AND, also often plays with conventional ideas about boundaries.
The firm’s Topoject, for example, is a house with walls that become part of the topography.
The artist asked the firm to create a 1,000-square-foot painting studio with living quarters for him on a budget of $80,000.
When Il-young met the firm’s principal, Jeong Eui-yeob, the meeting led to hours of conversation on what the painter perceived as the elusive boundaries between mind and body, flora and fauna, and interior and exterior space. At their third meeting, the artist asked the firm to design his home and studio.
But the initial encounter between the designers and the artist had a definite element of surprise.
One day in 2010, when the firm’s principal, Jeong Eui-yeob, was supervising Topoject’s construction site, a stranger walked into the field office. The man introduced himself with a pamphlet about his paintings and explained his predicament: He had already engaged an architect to design his home and studio but was having misgivings because the scheme was too conventional. And now he found himself captivated by its work.
This impromptu meeting between Jeong, the artist, and Jeong, the designer (who are not related), led to hours of conversation on what the painter perceived as the elusive boundaries between mind and body, flora and fauna, and interior and exterior space. At their third meeting, the artist asked the firm to design his home and studio.
That’s when the real problem arose, the designer said:
“It was impossible,” recalled the firm’s principal, Jeong Eui-yeob, “so we said no.”
A month later, the artist returned with more than twice the budget.
It was still tight, but the firm took on the commission as a design-build project. Construction came to about $80,000.
“We used all our knowledge to cut costs,” said Eui-yeob Jeong, 36, who apprenticed with innovators like Morphosis, in California, before founding AND in 2010.
His wife, Lee Tae-kyoung, a Yale-educated designer, now 31, soon joined the practice.
They created what they call Skinspace: a cast-concrete building with a facade that is both skinlike and spatial, or three-dimensional.
Clad in plywood “scales,” it rolls inward behind a glassy entry zone, like sequins on a curved surface. Where the facade bends, it becomes a slatted sunscreen, opening the interior to views of mountains, terraced farms and rice paddies.
Barely an hour from downtown Seoul, the site occupies a forested hilltop in an old agricultural region of Gyeonggi province. Although suburban houses dot the landscape, the area has emerged as affordable territory for artists.
Before building there, Jeong Il-young, 48, produced his colorful acrylic canvases in the Seoul apartment he shares with his wife and two daughters, now 11 and 13. Skinspace, by contrast, is a creative retreat, where he lives alone during the week.
Work is the focus, so the painting studio is double-height, but the sleeping quarters are almost monastic. The stairs connecting the studio and bedroom, however, are dramatic, rising like vertebrae between the two inward-rolling sections of facade.
Given the budget, the designers had to be inventive. The facade, for all its dynamism, is made of ordinary plywood panels. And the hundreds of wood and metal parts were designed with a 3-D computer program, then cost effectively laser-cut in a factory and assembled on site in three days by two people. The construction took just four months, with the owner applying interior finishes like paint and tile himself.
Now that he has inhabited Skinspace for more than a year, the artist recently pronounced it perfect.
“The building invites nature inward,” he said. “It allows me to feel nature’s changes and observe them more vividly.”
Sometimes passers-by are also drawn inward, where they occasionally buy a painting. He hopes the building will eventually double as a gallery for his work.
The artist is also contemplating adding a penthouse with room for his family.
“I planned this solely as my work space,” he said. “But now it also works as my family’s weekend house.”